Galapagos hawks released
For immediate release
Contact: Brian Graves, College of Veterinary Medicine, 612-624-6228 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Raptor Center announces release of 20 Galapagos hawks
MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (March 4, 2010) – The Galapagos National Park, along with The Raptor Center and other partners involved in a project to eradicate rats on several islands, recently announced a major milestone in the project: the release of 20 Galapagos hawks back to the islands where they were captured. The release took place on February 17-18.
Last year, the planning process for the operation to remove invasive, non-native rodents to protect native species determined that Galapagos hawks would be at risk during the operation. To mitigate this risk, the restoration project partners captured the hawks from Rábida, Bartolomé, and Bainbridge #3 islands prior to the start of the rodent eradication in early January. Hawks were captured without incident and taken to temporary aviaries on a nearby island, where they were maintained in excellent health throughout the six-week holding period, gaining an average of 100 grams each by the release date. Prior to release, each hawk was fitted with a backpack-style telemetry transmitter that will allow it to be tracked and monitored for over a year. No hawk mortalities occurred during the entire operation.
According to Julia Ponder, executive director of The Raptor Center, Galapagos hawks are polyandrous, meaning that they have a unique social structure among raptors where females maintain harems of males.
“This unique characteristic allowed us to house a territory group per aviary,” she explained. “Our experience with raptors in captivity elsewhere allowed us to take a preventive-health, rather than reactive, approach to issues related to keeping hawks in captivity. This approach allowed us to maintain the hawks in excellent condition throughout the holding period.”
“We expect that now, in the absence of rodents, there will be an increase in native prey, such as centipedes, grasshoppers, and lava lizards, which will sustain the population of hawks now that they won’t be feeding on rodents,” said Victor Carrion, technical coordinator for the park.
To protect the hawks, the Galapagos National Park was assisted by Island Conservation, the Charles Darwin Foundation, The Raptor Center at University of Minnesota, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, and University of Missouri at St. Louis. The partners were supported by contributions from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Bell Laboratories, Landcare Research, Boston Environmental, Lindblad2 Expeditions, The Peregrine Fund and the 3M Foundation. This partnership is working to prevent extinctions and restore altered ecosystems on the Galapagos by permanently removing damaging introduced rodents from key islands.
In the first phase of the project on January 7-8 and January 14-15, two treatments of rodent bait donated by Bell Laboratories were applied by helicopter to the islands of Rábida, Bartolomé, Sombrero Chino, North Plaza, the two Beagle islets, and three of the Bainbridge Rocks.
According to Hugo Arnal, South America regional director for Island Conservation, this is the first time Galapagos hawks have been maintained in captivity and successfully released.
“With the knowledge and experience gained, future projects will be able to adapt this model to other raptor species and replicate this successful operation,” Arnal said.
“Invasive species pose the greatest threat to nature in the Galapagos,” said Gabriel Lopez, executive director of the Charles Darwin Foundation. “The islands targeted for rodent eradication cover 704 hectares or 1,740 acres and are home to 12 unique Galapagos species considered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature to be threatened with extinction. Eradicating invasive rodents from these islands will benefit many species unique to the Galapagos.”
The partners expect to adapt the techniques used in this first phase to remove rodents from larger islands in the future. Preparations are underway for removing black rats from Pinzón Island, where they have prevented the Galapagos giant tortoise from successfully breeding in the wild for over 100 years by consuming eggs and hatchlings. The tortoise population is sustained only by hatching eggs and rearing tortoises to a size where they are “rat-proof” and then releasing them.
For more information about the project, visit www.TheRaptorCenter.org. For high-resolution photographs, visit www.islandconservation.org.
Established in 1974 within the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, The Raptor Center is internationally known for pioneering and perfecting techniques in avian medicine and surgery, restoring the peregrine falcon in the Midwest, and advancing health of raptors and other avian species through ongoing research. In addition to training veterinarians and veterinary professionals from all over the world, The Raptor Center encourages the public to protect raptors and the world we share through school, community, and Web-based education programs, and rehabilitation and release of injured raptors.