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Dr. Ponder’s Journal #14: Land snails and geckos rediscovered

Dr. Julia Ponder, executive director of the University of Minnesota Raptor Center, is traveling to the Galápagos Islands to support efforts to restore an endangered Giant Tortoise population. In this series of journal entries originally posted on The Raptor Center’s blog, Dr. Ponder will share her experiences over the course of two months. For background on her trip, click here to read or here to watch a video, and be sure to check back in to Health Talk to follow the project!

GeckoI wanted to share a couple of other stories with you. It is worth noting that in addition to the current work on Pinzon, the team in Galapagos also did follow-up work on the islands that underwent rodent eradication in January 2011. The results of that work were quite exciting. In addition to confirming that the rodents are gone, members of the monitoring team also documented the presence of two species – a land snail and a gecko – that were previously thought to be extinct. Both of these species, which have been looked for in the past, were found this year on the island of Rabida; presumably their populations are growing thanks to the removal of rodent predation.

This is what it is truly all about – the recovery of native and endemic populations and the prevention of extinctions! How proud we are to have had a role in this process and how grateful we are that our many supporters made it possible.

Bird feet on roofWe also have a story to share from Gail, regarding her “charges”, the Galapagos Hawks. If you’ve been following the journal blog, you know that there are 60 hawks (including all most of the known breeding adults on Pinzon) being held in captivity for the duration of the invasive rat eradication efforts. There are other hawks who have immigrated to the island after we trapped the local residents. As per the project plan, these hawks are offered meat with a rodenticide antidote (Vitamin K) to offset any possible exposure. One female hawk in particular has become a fairly regular “customer”. Gail mentioned recently that for some reason, she has been running along the roof of the enclosures, perhaps eating insects. When she gets somewhere she can see in, she watches for awhile before resuming her activities. According to Gail, she sounds like a herd of elephants on the roof, although I am pretty sure that the roof is insufficient to hold a single elephant. You can see the hawk’s foot shadows through the roof in the last photo.

- Juli

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