The population of Galapagos penguins and cormorants without planes, two species endemic to the islands, have seen a record increase, survey results released Friday show.
The Galapagos penguin is one of the smallest species of penguins in the world measuring up to 35 centimeters, and the cormorants on the islands are the only type that have lost their ability to fly – but they have developed diving skills.
“The number of cormorants has reached a record number according to historical data back to 1977, while the number of penguins is the highest since 2006,” said a statement from the Galapagos National Park, which conducted the census.
The population of Galapagos penguins, the only ones living on Earth’s equator, increased from 1,451 in 2019 to 1,940 in 2020, it added.
The number of cormorants without aircraft increased from 1,914 to 2,220 in the same period.
The survey was conducted by the park and the Charles Darwin Foundation in September with the main colonies present on the Isabela and Fernandina islands and on Mariela’s islets, west of the archipelago classified as a natural heritage site.
Paulo Proano, Ecuadorian environment and water minister, said the census results reflect the “good health of the population” of birds in the archipelago, located about 1,000 kilometers (625 miles) off the Ecuadorian coast, according to the park.
The park said the presence of the climatic phenomenon La Nina, which helps provide more food for the birds, has contributed to the increase in their population.
Another factor was the coronavirus pandemic, which has limited disturbance in nesting areas due to the decline in tourism, the park added.
The islands, which served as a natural laboratory for the English scientist Charles Darwin for his theory of species evolution, take its name from the giant turtles that live there.