Researchers discover that wildlife is reclaiming the Galapagos after tourism stalls

The Galapagos Islands may have reverted back to a state similar to what Charles Darwin first encountered some 200 years ago. Sea lions, iguanas, birds and other wildlife appear to have reclaimed the area, according to the Associated Press. With tourism stalled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, researchers with Ecuador’s government are studying how tourism affects the island’s natural environment.

A total of 35 park rangers have participated in the project, in collaboration with the Institute of Applied Ecology of the San Francisco de Quito University, the Galapagos Science Centre and the Charles Darwin Foundation.

They will continue to examine and categorize the native, endemic and introduced species from 34 touristic zones on the islands. Researchers will also evaluate the water quality, soil erosion, vegetation cover and tourism’s impact on the seafloor. When lockdown restrictions lift, they’ll establish new measures to compare the conditions before and after.

“We’ve observed some interesting things, for example, a higher number of emblematic species on some beaches,” Danny Rueda Córdova, Ecosystems Director at the Galapagos National Park told the Associated Press. “We have also identified that species of sea birds, such as boobies, have made nests on the visiting trails. Since there are no visitors, the trails are free, and they have made their nesting sites on these spaces.”

The Galapagos National Park is gradually reopening following 70 days of closure.

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