Generations of extinct iguanas on a Galapagos Island have been reborn nearly two centuries after they were first recorded by Charles Darwin.
The Galapagos land iguana was completely exterminated on the island of Santiago.
The Galapagos Archipelago is located east of South America and is a province of Ecuador.
Listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, thousands of iguanas were reintroduced to the island.
Now images show the lizard is breeding again on the island.
Galapagos National Park said in a statement: “Two centuries later, land iguanas are born again on the island of Santiago.
“Galapagos National Park experts and scientific advisors have verified through monitoring that after nearly two centuries, the land iguanas of the species Conolophus subcristatus occur again on Santiago Island.”
The statement continued: “3,143 of these specimens were reintroduced three years ago with the aim of restoring the island’s ecosystem.
“The team covered about 36 square kilometers and found new individuals of different ages, showing that this species is successfully reproducing.
“The iguanas were physically evaluated, weight and height measurements were taken and the new individuals were tagged for later identification.”
Galapagos National Park director Danny Rueda Cordova said: “187 years later, we are witnessing another healthy population of land iguanas, with adults, juveniles and newborns, on Santiago Island.
“This is a significant conservation achievement and strengthens our hopes for the recovery of islands severely damaged by introduced species.
“As an environmental authority, we will continue to take actions that allow us to approach the ecological integrity of the island’s ecosystem.”
Luis Ortiz-Catedral, head of the expedition, said: “The island has already started to show positive changes thanks to the distribution of iguanas, as they have opened trails, removed soil and dispersed seeds and other results such as changes in population dynamics and greater availability of food for others. Endemic species such as hawks will be seen in a few years.”
The statement also said: “The ecological recovery of the island of Santiago, one of the largest in the archipelago, began in 2002 with the implementation of the ‘Isabella project’ for the eradication of feral goats and pigs.
“Over the years, the ecosystem started to recover and provided the necessary conditions to accommodate a population of land iguanas, of the same species as the locally extinct ones.
“The ecological assessment of the land iguana population in Santiago is a joint activity of the Galapagos National Park Directorate, Re:Wild, Galapagos Conservation Trust, Island Conservation, Galapagos Conservancy and Fundacion Jocotoco.”
The park explained that in 1835 Darwin recorded the presence of a large number of land iguanas of various ages on the island of Santiago.
But later expeditions, conducted by the California Academy of Sciences, in about 1903 and 1906, found no more living specimens on the island.
Galapagos is Spanish for tortoise, which was nearly wiped out by sailors who hunted them for food. Likewise, in recent years, sailors introduced pigs and goats as food, as well as rats.
This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.