Day 7: The next step, the Galápagos Islands are coming to Houston

In April 2023 the Galápagos Islands habitat opens at the Houston Zoo

The Floreana giant tortoise (Anthony Yanez, Anthony Yanez)

On the last day for us in the Galápagos Islands, while we finished getting our last remaining video, I realized how truly special this place is in the world.

Shooting our final interviews (Anthony Yanez)

97% of the Galapagos is protected national park land. You would think with people only living on 3% of the islands there wouldn’t be many problems. But there are.

97% of Galapagos is national parks land (Anthony Yanez)

Every conservationist I spoke with said the number one problem facing the Galapagos is invasive species. Blackberries don’t belong here. But they are thriving on the islands. The plants grow an incredibly thick shrub that the giant tortoises can’t get through and something they can even get stuck.

The most invasive of the plants on the Galapagos (Anthony Yanez)

Rats were brought to the island on ships as early as the 1500s. Rats eat the eggs of the green sea turtle and the Galápagos Giant Tortoise. And goats eat the only food source of the tortoises: grass, sticks and leaves. The list goes on.

Green sea turtle in the ocean
The marine iguanas gather together to stay warm at night and nest on the beach (Anthony Yanez)

Problem number two is what could potentially come. While climate change is affecting other parts of the world now, the effect here has been manageable. However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that El Niño climate patterns in the future, will occur more often, and be more intense. That hasn’t happened yet, in fact we’ve had three La Niña climate patterns in a row. But El Niño patterns warm the water of the Galápagos Islands. Penguins, marine iguanas, and birds all rely on the cold, nutrient rich, waters for food. The more severe the El Niño, the harder time these animals would have surviving. A warmer world would also raise sea levels. Higher water levels would destroy the nesting area of the sea turtles, Galápagos penguins, and marine iguanas.

Marine iguana (Dawn Campbell)

These are all reasons the Galápagos Islands habitat coming in April to the Houston Zoo is important to Houstonians and people around the world. Saving the Galápagos Islands isn’t just work that needs to be done in Ecuador. By going to see this habitat next year, we’ll all see what we can do to help. I can’t wait for it to open. I know the moment I see the Galápagos giant tortoise again, I’ll be taken back to this special place, unlike any other on the Earth.

Just hanging out (Anthony Yanez)

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