From 3 September through 21 September, 2014 a multinational team of marine biologists, veterinary health professionals, and Parque Nacional Galápagos (PNG – Galapagos National Park) wildlife officers conducted thorough health assessments of three endemic species on five different islands in the Galápagos archipelago.
The team included Galapagos Science Center staff researchers Juanpablo Muñoz and Maximilian Hirschfeld, University of San Francisco Quito (USFQ) biologist Diego Páez-Rosas, and UNC-affiliated North Carolina State University (NCSU) veterinarians Gregory Lewbart and Diane Deresienski. The work was conducted out of the Galapagos Science Center in collaboration with PNG official Maryuri Irlandia Yépez Revelo and with the participation of other PNG staff.
The team of over a dozen individuals safely captured, sampled, and quickly released 112 marine iguanas, 30 Galápagos sea lions, five hawksbill turtles, and one green turtle on the islands of San Cristóbal, Isla Lobos, Española, Santa Cruz, and Isabela.
This work is part of an ongoing and expanding collaborative effort initiated by UNC biology professor and UNC Center for Galapagos Studies faculty fellow Kenneth Lohmann. With the support and cooperation of the PNG, Professors Lohmann and Lewbart are working closely with their GSC and USFQ colleagues to establish baseline health parameters that can be readily measured and recorded in the field and laboratory. Such work is important as these animals are vulnerable to multiple threats including natural (e.g. El Niño events) and anthropogenic threats like human waste runoff, general pollution, and commercial disasters like oil spills.
A rich and dynamic reservoir of information and publications should translate to conservation benefits to these species, and perhaps others, in the archipelago.