A canine unit to prevent invasive species in Galapagos

Invasive species pose one of the greatest threats to the conservation of the Galapagos Islands. That’s why WildAid helped the Galapagos Biosecurity Agency form a specialized canine unit to protect these unique islands from illegal products that may contain invasive species.

Last year, we selected and trained one dog, Rex, and three handlers, and built kennels and offices for the unit. Rex spent three months training in the identification of nine odors prohibited from entering the Galapagos, but commonly found on passengers attempting to smuggle them onto the islands. Their handlers were selected using a variety of personality and aptitude tests, and trained on canine care and handling.

The canine unit is a versatile and low-cost method to prevent the entry of invasive species on the islands. You can help us grow this unit with the addition of a new dog and specialized training to protect Galapagos ports.

Reducing plastic waste in the Galapagos

Our oceans currently receive 5-13 million metric tons of plastic waste each year. The results of this can be seen in the oceanic garbage patches— vortexes of plastic debris; overwhelming pollution in coastal areas, and marine wildlife deaths due to ingestion of plastic pieces. Galapagos National Park, home to more than 3,000 marine species and a living laboratory for scientists around the world is no exception.

WildAid is working with the Galapagos National Park Rangers to reduce plastic consumption on the islands, starting with local elementary schools. Rangers have collected data on current plastic consumption at Galapagos elementary schools and will track use throughout the year to measure the campaign’s effectiveness. Using a combination of games and infographics, our team will explain why plastic pollution is a problem for our oceans and how it impacts bird, turtle, and marine mammal species, as well as our health and communities. Students will be given a reusable water bottle to incentivize its use over single-use plastic bottles. The pilot school, where this program was incorporated reduced their plastic consumption by 95%. You can help us bring this campaign to three additional Galapagos’ elementary schools to reduce the use of plastic single-use bottles in the Galapagos.

Manta and Whale Shark Research in Lamakera, Indonesia

Lamakera village was one of the world’s top manta hunting site– previously landing over 1,000 mantas in a single season. In 2014, this small fishing village and all of Indonesia was declared a manta sanctuary. Together with WildAid, Misool Foundation has been working in Lamakera for the past three years to help manta fishermen find alternative livelihoods to ensure the success of the new sanctuary.

Since then, 80% of the former manta fishers have been trained as manta researchers, enforcement officials or in new sustainable fisheries. The new research program has helped educate the community on the benefits of mantas, whale sharks and other marine animals for the ocean and as a draw for ecotourism. We are currently building a research center and photographing and tagging these animals to identify them and track their migratory patterns to ensure their protection across the entire route.

You can help us in this crucial work with funding for additional equipment and training for new researchers and community rangers.

Protect Palau’s coral reefs and prevent illegal fishing

The small island nation of Palau, located in the Western Pacific Ocean between the Philippines and Indonesia, has paved the way for marine conservation. It created the world’s first shark sanctuary in 2009 and in 2015 declared that over 80% of its waters would be protected as a marine sanctuary.

Palau’s park rangers conduct daily patrols to prevent illegal fishing and protect more than 500 species of coral, 1,300 species of reef fish and numerous endangered species such as the dugong, saltwater crocodile, sea turtles, and giant clams. Enforcement of Palau’s marine environment ensures sustainable use of its resources and protects its coral reefs from additional stressors.

You can help protect Palau’s incredible marine biodiversity by helping us assure a regular patrol schedule in the Northern Reefs area, improved training for park rangers and equipment purchases for safe and effective patrols. Together, these can increase the quality and quantity of patrols.

Rescue humpback whales snared by fishing gear in Ecuador

Every summer, humpback whales travel thousands of miles to mate and birth their calves near Isla de la Plata. Due to its productive waters and abundance of commercial fish species, it is also the site of rampant illegal fishing. The numerous illegal gill nets and longlines set by poachers can tangle and drown the whales.

Machalilla’s park rangers developed a humpback whale rescue program four years ago where specially trained rangers, upon finding an entangled whale, jump in the water to cut away the fishing lines. Through a combination of patrols and community outreach, the Machalilla rangers are notified of entanglements and have rescued 14 whales to date. You can help Machalilla’s park rangers rescue more humpback whales this year with increased patrols, the purchase of equipment to help during these daring rescues and community outreach.

Sea turtle nest tagging and community outreach

Ecuador’s beaches provide an ideal nesting spot for four sea turtle species (Green Turtles, Leatherbacks, Olive-Ridley and critically endangered Hawksbill sea turtles). Sea turtles are an important part of a healthy marine ecosystem and generate more than one million dollars in tourism for Ecuador annually.
Last year, WildAid worked with park rangers in Pacoche Wildlife Refuge and Marine Reserve to mark sea turtle nests to protect them from predators, deter poachers and educate the community on the benefits of sea turtles to the marine ecosystem and tourism. We released more than 30,000 sea turtle hatchlings to the sea and complemented the patrols with environmental education for over 2,800 local school children. This year, we want to increase the number of sea turtle hatchlings rescued by patrolling and marking nests at two additional nesting sites at Santa Elena and Machalilla National Parks.