Highlighted Story: Conservation Medicine in the Galápagos

Contributing to Conservation Medicine in the Galápagos

Diseases are increasingly recognized as significant threats to the survival of wildlife populations worldwide, particularly for species with small, island-endemic populations.

© Paul Calle


  • The introduction of infectious disease to small populations, especially those found on island ecosystems, has resulted in dramatic species declines and extinctions. This disease threat is compounded by the impacts of development and climate change.
  • Over 180,000 people visit the Galápagos Islands annually to explore the area’s unique natural heritage. This vital ecotourism activity generates hundreds of millions of dollars for the country.
  • Since 2001, wildlife researchers have examined and sampled more than 20,000 birds representing 26 endemic species across 16 islands of the Galápagos archipelago.


The Situation
Diseases are increasingly recognized as significant threats to the survival of wildlife populations worldwide. They are of particular threat to species with small, island-endemic populations such as those found throughout the Galápagos archipelago. Endemic island species often have evolved in the absence of many types of disease agents and are particularly susceptible to infection from newly-introduced pathogens. Wildlife health, therefore, is fundamental for the conservation of native Galápagos fauna.


The Process
CBSG collaborated with the Wildlife Conservation Society and a number of government ministries to design and facilitate an intensive workshop in Ecuador. The goal of the workshop, which was funded by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, was to develop an Action Plan to guide the international conservation medicine management and research community in making positive health contributions to wildlife conservation across the Galápagos archipelago. Participants from government ministries and Ecuadorian and international universities and NGOs identified priority challenges for wildlife health conservation in the region, evaluated existing relevant national regulations, and noted opportunities for international collaboration. Simultaneous bilingual translation was provided to ensure that all participants were able to equally contribute.


The Results
Participants recognized a vital need to establish a single veterinary diagnostic laboratory in the Galápagos with responsibility for investigating both domestic and wild animal health across the archipelago. The archipelago’s lead biosecurity agency has taken the lead in funding, designing, and constructing this important facility. In addition, the group urged the government to begin developing a health monitoring, investigation, control, and disease eradication plan to guide research and management priorities. Based on the value of the recommendations emerging from this workshop, the report will inform the content of a wildlife health chapter in the Galápagos Island’s Provincial Plan.