Presenting the Mangrove Finch Conservation project to the Isabela community

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Our Mangrove Finch project team last week returned from Puerto Villamil, Isabela Island, after a very rewarding educational trip.

Since 2010, Charles Darwin Foundation researchers have worked closely with the local community on Isabela and other islands to promote awareness about the Mangrove Finch’s endangered status and to provide updates about our on-going conservation efforts. The Mangrove Finch (Camarynchus heliobates) is the rarest bird in Galapagos with an estimated population of 80 individuals, inhabiting just 30ha at two sites on Isabela Island. In 2014, for the first time in Galapagos, a head-starting program began to increase the population size and range of the Mangrove Finch.

A series of community events over January 14th and 15th were carried out in collaboration with the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD) and the Isabela Outreach Initiative (IOI). Our team arrived to Isabela with a bag full of goodies, funded by CDF project supporters The Mohamed bin  Zayed  Species  Conservation Fund,  Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and The British Embassy in Ecuador. Picture booklets and wall calendars were handed out, as well as vehicle sun visors and key rings – all Mangrove Finch themed.

Booklets were distributed to primary school children in events coordinated with Puerto Villamil schools Escuela Cornello Izquierdo and Escuela Jacinto Gordillo. CDF’s Mangrove Finch project leader Francesca Cunninghame and education consultant Cristina Georgii presented students with a colorful update. Our team also explained the importance of protecting mangrove habitats and finished off by showing a 15 minute Mangrove Finch documentary, revealing the groundbreaking results of last year’s “head-starting” program.

Evening events included additional screenings of the documentary, complete with question and answer sessions, at each of the two taxi cooperatives in Puerto Villamil: Piqueros and Sierra Negra. Every taxi driver who came along received their exclusive Mangrove Finch car sun visor and calendar.

Francesca Cunninghame was delighted with the trip’s success: “When we first began Mangrove Finch education activities in 2010, very few people knew about them. Now, before we open our mouths, we have school children telling us that the Mangrove Finches are endangered and that mangrove habitat needs protecting. Murals depicting Mangrove Finches have also been painted on private residences by locals. With community awareness and support, endangered species conservation is far more successful.”  

Booklets, calendars and car sun visors have been left with the GNPD’s education team in Puerto Villamil, to distribute to local businesses and tourism operators. These items will also be handed out during the GNPD’s 2015 school holiday program activities.

The Mangrove Finch Project is a bi-institutional project carried out by the Charles Darwin   Foundation and Galapagos National Park Directorate, in collaboration with San Diego Zoo Global  and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. The project is supported by Galapagos Conservation  Trust, The Mohamed bin Zayed  Species Conservation Fund, Durrell Wildlife Conservation  Trust,  The Leona M and Harry B Helmsley Charitable Trust, Galapagos Conservancy, and The British Embassy in Ecuador.