Posts Tagged ‘galapagos islands’

Conservation and the Galápagos Islands

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010
The Northern Elephant Seal Pup  Photograph by Thomas Schnetlage

Northern Elephant Seal Pup. Photo: Thomas Schnetlage

The Galápagos Islands are known worldwide for their stunning beauty and environmental diversity. Due to their unique location, size, and home to plants and animals found anywhere else in the world, the islands are in need of environmental conservation and were recognized in 1978 as UNESCO World Heritage Site. As a result, tourist organizations are very careful not to harm the sensitive islands while visiting.

Here are some other interesting facts about the islands:

  1. They are one of the few locations in the world that do not have and have never had an indigenous human population.
  2. In 1959, about 1,500 souls called the islands home. By 2006, the population had ballooned to as many as 40,000.
  3. Although there are eighteen main islands that make up the Galápagos Islands, only five are inhabited by people – Baltra, Floreana, Isabela, San Cristobal, and Santa Cruz.
  4. The islands have a healthy diverse plant and animal population, but have struggled to maintain them due to species that have been introduced by humans. 700 plants have been introduced by visitors since European discovery in 1535 – compared to the 500 native plants. As a result, there is competition between the two groups for survival.
  5. The same can be said for animals – British pirates first released goats on the islands to use for food. Today, non-native animals still include goats, as well as pigs, dogs, rats, cats, mice, sheep, horses, donkeys, cows, poultry, ants, cockroaches, and some parasites. Dogs and cats may attack birds and damage their nests. Pigs can destroy the nests of tortoises, turtles, and iguanas.

The good news is there are many professionals keeping an eye on the environmental balance of the islands, including the Galapagos National Park and The Darwin Foundation. To help learn, study, and educate yourself about our world’s oceans, we recommend the Smithsonian’s own Ocean Portal, which includes tools for educators, amazing photo essays, and information on how you can make a difference in preserving these precious resources.

What would you do to conserve the Galápagos Islands? Share your ideas.

Visit the Galapágos with your family! Click here for more information.

Photo: The Blue-Footed What?

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Male blue-footed boobies are monogamous and have been known to whistle at passing females.

The poor blue-footed booby truly has an unfortunate name. The name “booby” originated from the Spanish term bobo, which means “stupid” or “foolish” like a clown. Although the bird may fly gracefully, he tends to be a bit clumsy on land.

He dances to impress the ladies, showing off his blue feet and flapping his wings.  As with most courtship displays, the majority of female birds in the vicinity of such a show just find it mildly amusing, until one takes pity on him and agrees to mate. The birds are monogamous, with partners taking turns to incubate the eggs.

You can see this little guy and his friends on The Galapagos for Families tour.

Which animal makes you laugh? Share Below.

Tropical Adventures – Words, Pictures, and Videos from our Travelers

Friday, February 20th, 2009

We are grateful that our Smithsonian travelers are so often eager to share their thoughts about their tour experiences with us.

This week, long-time and first-time travelers tell us what they love about exploring some of the world’s most pristine habitats.

“Things learned and liked best: The incredible size and diversity of the Amazon basin – its flora and fauna, bio-diversity, people were eye opening. Truly one of the earth’s lungs! Daily excursions were very knowledgeable naturalists who went out of their way to show us all what the Amazon was all about. Village and home visits to acquaint us with the Riberonos’ daily lives.”

-Bill and Mary McNamara, Amazon River Journey

Leaf Cutter Ants in Costa Rica. Photo: Jim Urmston

Leaf Cutter Ants in Costa Rica. Photo: Sharon Cotter

Keep reading for an amazing zip-line-view video…