Galapagos Marie Iguanas mysterious deaths
Marine Iguanas are one of Galapagos main attraction, as there's no where on the planet where you can find land lizards diving as afar as 10m and deeper, staying underwater for up to 15 min, feeding on seaweed only, these are very important attributes to the Marine Iguana.
Theres a lot of positive things to be said about Galapagos national park and what the Darwin foundation has achieved. For a lot of animals the Galapagos is home and for those passing trough, thanks to the Darwin foundation they know that they're safe, so animals will allow you to get within 50cm reach. The interaction between humans and animals on the island is incredibly moving and it proves that we can live in a world where humans and nature can live in harmony with one another.
However like any tourist attraction the negatives are never shown on the brochure. During my visit to the Galapagos in July 2016 we encountered an unusual amount of dead Iguanas, they looked as if they where stopped in their tracks, sudden death hit them. My personal conclusion was that these animals didn't die from a natural cause, when I got home I decided to follow up on this peculiar event, I found out the following; According to the website LINK the animals died from insufficient aliment dew to recent climate change and the increase of freak weather patterns, the warm surface temperature of the water prevent nutrients from reaching the surface, and without micro plankton, the whole food chain consequently suffers.
On the Gallapagos conservancy they claim that the causes are inconclusive and there for unknown, despite huge efforts and funding which went in to working with scientists from GC's collaborators in the States, the Huston zoo... histopathology analysis on dead and alive body tissues “revealed the presence of lesions in different digestive tissues and on the tongue in particular” However the website galapagos.org claims to have collected inconclusive data.
Another study by Martin Wikelski of Princeton and colleges found that after the oil leak of the tanker Jessica which ran aground off the coast of Ecuador in 2001, had a huge impact on the Marine Iguana population on Santa fe, the island closest to the oil spill, in-fact mortality rate dropped by 62% in the following year.
The scientists found that small amounts of oil in the water had killed fermentation bacteria in their hind-guts that normally break down algal cell walls so iguanas can digest their food.
This to me would seem a more plausible explanation to the sudden death of the marine Iguanas on my last trip to the Galapagos in 2016. Early on in 1016 the gulf of Mexico had two documented oil spills on offshore rigs, the oil could have traveled south to the prestigious Galapagos Islands, with it polluting the surrounding water and animals living in it.