IGTOA Provides $8,000 for White-vented Storm Petrel Research and Conservation

"We are really pleased that IGTOA has seen fit to support this exciting project. While not a 'big project' it is very significant, as very few bird species have not had their nesting sites identified. Until we can locate the nesting areas of the White-vented storm petrel we can't assess its conservation status. Our research should also reveal whether the species is endemic to Galapagos, or is just an endemic sub-species. IGTOA's contribution is essential as it enables us to be flexible and follow the leads that the initial research throws up."

Jullian Fritter, Friends of Galapagos New Zealand

Protecting the extraordinary biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands is a key part of IGTOA's conservation mission. So this year, we are pleased to have the opportunity to provide $8,000 to help fund an important research project on the White-vented storm petrel being carried out by Friends of Galapagos New Zealand (FOGNZ).

The White-vented storm petrel is a small seabird that every visitor to Galapagos is familiar with; flocks of them are often seen "dancing" upon the water while feeding along the sea surface around anchored tour boats. Yet nothing is known about them, as taxonomic and genetic studies have not been carried out and not a single nest has ever been located. Experts suspect they may turn out to be a new endemic species.

Small seabirds are known to be extremely vulnerable to rat predation, so if these or other predators were to invade its nesting site, the species could suddenly go extinct without any warning, and without anyone being able to do a thing about it.

As part of the project, the world's two foremost experts on tracking small seabirds, Chris Gaskin and Karen Baird, will volunteer for a three months stint working in collaboration with the Galapagos National Park, using minute tail-mounted radio transmitters to track the birds to their nesting site(s). They should acquire the information necessary to protect the species against future threats of extinction and DNA analysis should clarify once and for all the endemic status of the species.

IGTOA's funds will be used to ensure an optimum supply of radio transmitters and receivers, plus related gear, such as automated radio recording stations, and spare antenna arrays to enlist a few tour guides to scan for the presence of tagged birds beyond the immediate range of the field team's activities.

White-vented storm petrel image © Roar Johansen via Wiki Commons.

Matt Kareus

Matt is the Executive Director of IGTOA.

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