Taking action to help endangered Galapagos giant tortoises and penguins

Did you know that giant tortoises are only found in two places in the world? The Seychelles and the Galapagos Islands. Did you also know that the Galapagos penguin is the only penguin specie found north of the equator? Both of these animals are very unique, but they are also endangered.

According to 2018 data by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, there are only 1,200 mature Galapagos penguins left and the population is continuously in decline. As for the Galapagos giant tortoises, of the initial 15 species, three have gone extinct. Of the remaining species, the status ranges from critically endangered to vulnerable.

The survival of the Galapagos penguins and giant tortoises are constantly threatened by climate change, habitat loss and the previous introduction of feral dogs, cats, pigs and rats to the islands – all consequences of human actions.

I personally met scientists of the Charles Darwin Research Station to give the donation. Pictured are Senior Seabirds Researcher Dr. Gustavo Jiménez (left) and Science Director Dr. María José Barragán (right).

When I visited the Galapagos Islands in August 2017, I saw the preserved Lonesome George at the Charles Darwin Research Station. He was the last giant tortoise from Pinta Island and I couldn’t believe that his specie became extinct because of human actions. So I wanted to help the remaining species of giant tortoises and the rest of the wildlife like the penguins.

I sold my old toys, clothes and books in a garage sale. With the funds I got, I bought handmade items from artisan markets abroad and resold them. Then for my birthday, I asked for donations instead of presents. Finally, with the support of my parents, I created a GoFundMe page and reached out to others for additional donations. From all these activities and thanks to the generous donors who supported me, I was able to raise USD 2,690 for the conservation projects of the Charles Darwin Research Station which I donated in April 2019.

Dr. Gustavo Jiménez showing me the natural history collection of the research station. This is a preserved Galapagos penguin.

The funds were used to purchase PIT tags (electronic tags) to monitor the penguins and to assess the health status of the giant tortoises. I would like to thank the scientists and the staff of the Charles Darwin Research Station for their time, including showing me around the natural history collection, fly breeding laboratory, and the new “Marine World” exhibit. I learned so much!

Video courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions – National Geographic

For more information, visit the Charles Darwin Research Station.

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