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February 2011 Archives

Sahara Rally raises funds for CDF

GCT's chief executive, Toni Darton, Felipe Cruz, CDF's director of technical assistance, Dr Sarah Darwin, a great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin, and  marine scientist, Dr Victoria Todd, attended a fund raising dinner held by the Sahara Rally in Cambridge on 11 February.

Organised by the Sahara Rally's founder, Karl Scarr, in aid of the Charles Darwin Foundation and East African Wildlife Association, the dinner took place at Cambridge's Quy Mill hotel.

Mr Scarr said: "We set off in our vehicles from England on September 4 and drive 5,000 miles in 11 days, ending up in the Moroccan desert."

To find out more about the annual rally please click here.
As part of the GCT-backed Project Floreana, the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) has officially presented its Water Source Operations and Solid Waste Management System studies to the island's local authorities and the community at large. From the outset Project Floreana has been a flagship project for the Galapagos Conservation Trust (GCT) and now forms a central plank of the Trust's 15 Steps to Help Save Galapagos.

Project Floreana links everything from species management to habitat restoration and tackling the human issues. GCT's chief executive, Toni Darton, said: "Project Floreana is the first time this approach has been taken on an inhabited island and could, we hope, not only restore Floreana and its wildlife but also provide a blueprint for the future."

During the presentation event, CDF Technical Assistance Director Felipe Cruz highlighted the importance of these studies and thanked the Floreana Parish Council and the Galapagos National Park for their joint support, adding: "We are committed to working for sustainable development and the all-round restoration of Floreana through community participation and the provision of resources for local capacity building, in pursuit of an enhanced quality of life for the island's inhabitants."

Felipe Cruz also informed the community that CDF will be holding a series of workshops in 2011 on creative thinking and sustainable tourism, among other topics, to be conducted by volunteer experts who will share their knowledge and skills with the island's residents. In conclusion, he presented two 2011 calendars prepared by CDF's Education team to reinforce the educational efforts being made on the island in the areas of solid waste management and native garden development.

Technologist Max Freire, Floreana Parish Council President, thanked CDF for the studies and pledged his support and collaboration to the Floreana Project, saying, "The Floreana community is grateful for the technical and scientific work being done by the Foundation on the island for the well-being and good living of its inhabitants."

In her intervention, CDF Education for Sustainable Development Coordinator Cristina Georgii briefed the community on CDF's environmental education plan for 2011, a project funded by GCT that will start off with holiday activities for island children in the second week of February.

After the formal presentations, the audience enjoyed a video summing up CDF's educational activities on Floreana last year and featuring children and parents from the Amazonas Elementary School.

Filmed by leading independent documentary film maker, Maurice Melzak of Nautilus Films, the Galapagos Conservation Trust's chief executive, Toni Darton,  and the Charles Darwin Foundation's director of technical assistance, Felipe Cruz, discuss the exciting progress being made in saving the world's most important natural icon: Galapagos. 


Lonesome George's two new mates

Lonesome George.JPG

Lonesome George has two new female friends from the island of Española who are believed to be closer genetically to the world's most famous tortoise than the previous two females from Isabela Island.

Twenty years ago, in an attempt to achieve successful reproduction by Lonesome George, the Galapagos National Park (GNP) decided to put two tortoises from Isabella, in George's corral. This decision was based on advice from various herpetologists. These females were selected due to their morphology, which was similar to Pinta tortoises, given that no genetic studies of Galapagos tortoises existed at that time.

However, in recent years, with the collaboration of Yale University, detailed genetics studies of Galapagos tortoises have been completed. The results of these studies indicate that although the Isabella females were morphologically similar, they are, in fact, hybrid tortoises and as such not the most ideal tortoises to mate with Lonesome George. The studies also showed that tortoises from Española are the closest genetically to Pinta tortoises (Chelonoidis abingdoni).

Therefore, they are the most compatible and will provide greater potential for reproduction with Lonesome George, with the goal of obtaining individuals with a high percentage of Pinta DNA. The two Española females have lived in captivity since the beginning of the Española breeding program. They now share a corral with Lonesome George and GNP officials are hopeful that it will be possible to obtain hatchlings sired by Lonesome George during the next reproductive season.

The breeding season is just starting and the nesting season will begin in late June. However, it is still possible for the Española females to lay eggs fertilized by Española males, so the DNA of any offspring would have to be analyzed before knowing if Lonesome George was indeed a new father.
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