Darwin Research Station
At the end of Charles Darwin Ave to the North of Puerto Ayora, is the Charles Darwin Research Station. Where more than 200 Scientists, Researchers, Biologists and Interns from around the world, help to support the National Parks conservation and breeding efforts in conjunction with the Islands UNESCO world heritage status. We spent the morning visiting the station, hoping to avoid the worst of the midday sun. We walked in and tried to figure out where to start. The layout was more than a little confusing. I needed my Geographer to do the navigating.
We started in the Native plant garden. Where we saw examples of the islands endemic scalesia (part of the Daisy family), which are important in forming part of the canopy and returning moisture to the ground. Thereby allowing more abundant plant growth in the islands highlands. We also were very interested in the special devices that had been constructed to try and retain the necessary moisture required to allow seedlings to successfully take hold.
The Aquapro Waterboxes looked kind of similar to wheel hubs, had sloping edges to encourage water in and to retain water efficiently, so it is not lost via evaporation. These low cost initiatives are going to be vital in ensuring these precious endemic species are around for future generations to experience.
From the garden we walked the track to the interpretation centre (what we would refer to as museum or Information centre) which had displays explaining how different types of seeds are thought to have made their way to the Galapagos from the mainland. These included floating, in the digestive tracts of animals, or attached to the feet, fur or feathers. Not only did these seeds have to survive the 1000km journey, they then also had to be hardy enough to germinate and establish themselves on the Islands.
Next it was feeding time for the baby Tortoises. The keeper left a pile of potato leaves and stems on top of their shelter and you should’ve seen how excited they got. Pretty frenetic movement from little dudes who only move about 300m/day!! The walk then took us past the Lonesome George’s abode. Lonesome George was the last remaining specimen of the Pinta tortoises, which lived on Pinta Island. He died at the DRS in June 2012, aged 102. (DOB 1910). He became the face of the Galapagos’s conservation efforts, after the National Parks tried unsuccessfully to breed him with other closely related species. But alas, he died before they were able to coax him into breeding. Stubborn old fella.
The next enclosure contained a fantastic surprise Land Iguanas!! These yellow dinosaurs were hugely impressive. So huge and so rare. There are thought to be less than 10,000 still remaining and they are endemic to the Galapagos. They used to be so prolific on Isla Santiago that Charles Darwin remarked “We could not for some time, find a spot free from their burrows, on which to pitch our single tent.” The presence of introduced mammals such as rats, cats, dogs and pigs has had a devastating impact on the population.
The following afternoon we decided we couldn’t leave without paying another visit to the wondrous Tortuga bay. The weather really turned it on for us, but alas no spunky beach police this time. However, the turtles must have know we were leaving as at least 5 of them were gathered in the mangroves and swimming in the surf as we made our way back towards the path. They have definitely been one of our highlights.