Galápagos Iguanas Finally Return Home After 184 Long Years

The last time iguanas were seen on Santiago Island was when Darwin visited in 1835.


(robert cicchetti /

Over 1,400 land Iguanas have successfully been released on Santiago island in the Galapagos Islands archipelago in Ecuador thanks to an intensive park restoration project. This marks the first time that the iguanas have roamed the island in almost 200 years.

The last time the reptiles were officially recorded was in 1835 when the island was visited by Charles Darwin. The population was decimated over the years by the presence of invasive species including goats, donkeys, and feral pigs that caused massive ecosystem damage.

These destructive animals were removed in a 2001 joint project between the Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Foundation.

The reintroduction of the land iguanas on January 3 and 4 was the third phase of a four-phase project. The first two phases were accomplished at the end of 2018 with the capturing of the reptiles on North Seymour Island and their quarantine on Santa Cruz Island prior to the reinstatement, according to the Galapagos National Park's Facebook page.

The reptiles were moved from North Seymour because there has been an increasing loss of vegetation, primarily cactus, from the island beginning in 2016. The island can now only support a smaller population.

"This management action, which will guarantee the ecological integrity of North Seymour and a successful establishment of the iguanas in Santiago, has been taken based on technical and scientific information," said Jorge Carrión, director of the Galapagos National Park.

The herbivorous reptiles have historically helped the island's ecosystem by dispersing seeds and maintaining open areas without vegetation. That is why it is necessary to leave a population on North Seymour and why the reintroduction on Santiago is so important for the island's ecosystem.

The last phase is slated to begin in February and included monitoring how well the reestablishment of the iguanas is doing. How they are adapting to their new environment and their reproduction rates and what they are eating.

The environmental authority will establish a permanent management program to protect the nesting areas of the iguanas.

Carrión said on Twitter that this ecological achievement is "great news for the Galapagos, for Ecuador, and for the world." We couldn't agree more.

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