Galapagos Iguanas Conservation Policy

Sophia Batman

Marine iguanas are a unique species of iguana that are able to spend time in both land and in sea. There are no other iguana species that possess similar swimming skills or are able to forage for food in the ocean. They are endemic to the Galapagos Archipelago, meaning they are only found in that one place on earth. Therefore, conservation efforts for this vulnerable species are concentrated in Ecuador. 

Threats to marine iguanas are mainly from humans. A prominent nesting zone is located on an Isabela Island beach that is popular for tourists. Humans risk stepping on nests and can interrupt the paths of the young. Increased pet populations are also harmful to iguanas because they are not equipped to defend themselves from large land predators. Oil spills and other pollutants including plastics pose a risk to the small population. Changing climate is also becoming an increased threat to all cold-blooded organisms, making it difficult for the iguanas to regulate their internal temperature. 

There are multiple conservation policies in place to protect this vulnerable species, with conservation efforts concentrated in Ecuador. Since 1998 there has been an emphasis on environmental protection in the Galapagos, with multiple laws and regulations being enacted. The Galapagos Special Law was created which legally protects the Galapagos environment  with high standards. The island region was also named a marine reserve, and since 1998 has expanded to include the entire archipelago and surrounding waters. The ‘marine reserve’ title means that human actions such as fishing and tourism are limited to certain areas, as well as encouraging conservation actions to protect and restore the ecosystem and organisms in the Galapagos. A program that was recently created to protect marine iguanas is called Plastic Pollution Free Galapagos. This program is being used to determine the risk factor of microplastic and larger debris on iguana’s, as well as working to limit plastic pollution. This research is funded by grants from the Ecuadorian government and is supported by the marine reserve status of the Galapagos. Another conservation category of the marine iguana is the protection it has under the CITES list, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. This ensures the  trade of the marine iguana for bushmeat or wildlife trade is prohibited and heavily regulated. 

Sources: Galapagos Conservancy, Galapagos Conservation Trust, International Iguana Foundation, World Wildlife Fund