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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

"Judas Goats" and Restoring the Galapagos

"Judas Goats" and Restoring the Galapagos

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Saturday, March 12, 2016/Categories: natural history, wildlife conservation, sustainability, environment

                         Galapagos Islands, Equador (credit: Wikipedia)

The Galapagos Islands hold a special place in biology where Charles Darwin began his 19th Century study of evolution. His pioneering investigations of physical variation among tortoises and finches on different islands formed the foundation of modern biology, ecology, and environmental science. Unfortunately, the island's environment is now considerably different from Darwin's time as increased human populations, overfishing, and most inportantly, invasive species, have seriously impacted some of islands and their unique wildlife.

In particular, goats intentionally released on islands with no predators reproduced explosively and denuded forest habitats for birds, tortoises, and everything else indigenous. However, the Galapagos Conservancy and their Project Isabela devised a goat eradication effort that proved highly successful. Employing marksmen hunters in helicopters who used "Judas goats" , captured female goats are sterilized, equipped with radio-collars, and released to locate entire herds, and feral goats were virtually eliminated from several islands. The damage to native wildlife stopped and the Galapagos ecosystems, upon which they depended, began to recover rapidly.

Two videos explain the exciting restoration story and the resulting wildlife recovery:


As such Galapogos projects illustrate, recovery of island ecosystems and their unique animals, may provide a fitting tribute to Darwin and ecology in the 21st Century.



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