Galapagos experiences record increase in penguins and flightless cormorants

Recently a study found that the population of Galapagos penguins and Galapagos cormorants has seen a record increase.

Both these species are native to the island. Measuring up to 35 cms, Galapagos penguins are the smallest species of penguins in the world and the only penguin to live on the equator. Cormorants found in Galapagos are the only species that lost the ability to fly, but they have developed diving skills.

Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed on either side of the equator. It is a province of Ecuador, located some 563miles off its coast, and shelters a diversity of species, many not found anywhere else in the world. Charles Darwin visited Galapagos in 1835, and his observation of the species inspired his theory of evolution.

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The study was carried out by the Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Foundation in September with the main colonies present on the Isabela and Fernandina islands and on the Marielas islets. According to the study, the population of penguins increased from 1,451 in 2019 to 1,940 in 2020. The number of cormorants increased from 1,914 to 2,220 over the same period.

Flightless cormorant drying its wings | Image: By Charles J Sharp – Own work, from Sharp Photography

“The number of cormorants has reached a record number, according to historical data dating back to 1977, while the number of penguins is at the highest since 2006,” Galapagos National Park said in a statement.

The Ecuadorian minister of environment and water, Paulo Proano, said the results reflect the good state of health of the birds’ population in the archipelago.

The presence of La Nina helps provide more food for the birds and helps in increasing their populations. Also, a drop in tourism-related disturbances due to the Coronavirus pandemic has attributed to the cause.

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