Galapagos Invasive Species:
Harmful animals

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Rock pigeons go flying: Eradication of introduced rock pigeons

Rock pigeons, Colomba livia, were introduced to the Galapagos archipelago in 1972-1973 and became well-established on three islands, Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and Isabela by the middle of the 1980s. Rock pigeons are carriers of many diseases which affect humans, wild life and poultry, and are capable of transmitting at least 40 diseases. While they are resistant to many diseases they become points of infection for transmission to other birds.

Santa Cruz island In Galapagos, the rock pigeon is the carrier of Tricomonas gallinae, a fatal disease for endemic pigeons and poultry. With a continued increase in their populations, risks of disease transmission to humans and populations of native birds increased to the extent that it was decided to eliminate the dove population.

On the island of Santa Cruz the rock pigeon was first reported in 1983. The eradication programme led by the Galapagos National Park (GNP), with technical support from the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF), was carried out over 18 months in 2001 and 2002. The abundance and distribution of pigeons was first ascertained using surveys on foot or from a vehicle and locations of birds were recorded by GNP. Subsequently, birds were eliminated by shooting, stupefying using alpha-chloralose on baits or catching them by hand in pigeon lofts or at nest sites in deserted buildings; 429 individuals in the urban and rural zones on the island were removed. At present, the island is being continuously monitored in order to confirm the erradication, and ensure that any re-introductions from other islands are detected and removed immediately.

The National Park campaign to remove rock pigeons on the island of San Cristobal began in 2002, with the invaluable help of the Inter-institutional Management Committee for Introduced Species (IMCIS). The campaign began with a census in which it was estimated that there were around 300 rock pigeons just in the urban area, Puerto Baquerizo Morena, and the agricultural zone. Between 2002 and 2004 a total of 802 rock pigeons were removed. On this island the number of rock pigeons has been reduced to a very low number, despite the large initial population and the resistance of certain members of the community to give up their birds, even in the face of legal obligations. At present, the campaign is in the final monitoring phase.

In 2004 the National Park began the eradication campaign on Isabela island, with the collaboration of the ICMIS-Isabela. Up to the present time, results have been very good. In one month of work in the urban and rural zones 262 individual rock pigeons were removed.

Source: Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Foundation.

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This website was created on 25 October 2004 by PT and JK