Raptor Center to work with hawks on Galapagos Islands
A Galapagos hawk on Santiago Island Photo by Sue Kirchoff
(September 13, 2010) - The Raptor Center (TRC) has been invited to work on a project to protect Galapagos hawks on the Galapagos Islands this fall.
The hawks will be brought into captivity during an effort to eradicate invasive rats from 10 islands in the Galapagos archipelago. Rats have already been successfully eradicated from several islands, and the long-term goal is to continue this work. The problem is that four of the islands being targeted this year are home to small numbers of the Galapagos hawk, an endemic species that is vulnerable by virtue of its small population of several hundred individuals. Because the hawks’ prey includes rats, the hawks would be at very high risk for secondary poisoning during the rat eradication program. To mitigate this risk, approximately 22 hawks—the entire population from the islands being targeted for rodent eradication—will be brought into temporary captivity for four to six weeks.
TRC’s role will be to provide consultative input on the project, veterinary expertise with raptors, and care and management of the hawks during their time in captivity. In October and November, Dr. Juli Ponder, TRC's executive director, will be spending six weeks in the Galapagos, actively managing the birds and providing veterinary support.
"I am absolutely thrilled that when the project managers realized that they would benefit from a veterinarian’s perspective, they contacted us," Ponder says. "In addition to our experience in raptor medicine, surgery, and critical care, we also bring leadership and knowledge in the area of captive management of wild raptors, which will be critical for this project."
TRC's partners on the project are the Charles Darwin Foundation, GalapagosNational Park, Island Conservation, Bell Laboratories, University of Missouri, and The Peregrine Fund, an international conservation organization for birds of prey.
Found exclusively in the Galapagos Islands, Galapagos hawks measure about 21 inches from beak to tail and have a wingspan of about four feet.