Historically, the Galapagos islands have not been a safe haven for iguanas. In fact, The Guardian shared that they haven’t actually been recorded on the island since Charles Darwin last made note of them in 1835. The reason? The islands are also home to predators like feral pigs, who pushed the local iguana population into extinction. But as of January 4th, that’s all changed.
At the beginning of the month, the Galapagos National Park authority moved forward with its initiative to reintroduce 1,436 iguanas to the island with help from the island’s conservation organization and the Massey University of New Zealand. The iguanas were relocated from the neighboring North Seymour Island and brought into their new home on Santiago Island.
This was no easy or quick process. According to the park authority’s Facebook announcement, a team of 25 park rangers participated in four phases of the project. Phase one and two of the initiative included capturing the iguanas on North Seymour Island in late 2018 and transferring them to a quarantine facility on Santa Cruz Island. From there, the iguanas were released onto Santiago Island. The fourth phase will take place in February and includes “monitoring the establishment of iguanas on the island (adaptability); reproduction (identification of nests); verification of biomass, i.e. identification of favorite plants to eat, and collection of survival data, among others,” according to the announcement.
All of this goes to say one simple thing: If you’re planning a trip to the Galapagos, or specifically Santiago Island, there’s a chance you’ll spot a new tenant running around. But before you plan your trip, make sure you read up on how to visit without endangering any of the wildlife or fauna—the Galapagos organization website has plenty of tips for travelers.