Rewilding the Galápagos can be a model for a new way of coexisting with nature | Danny Rueda Cordova and Leonardo DiCaprio
Jthere are few places in the world as majestic and awe-inspiring as the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador. From the rosy-hued pink iguanas on the northern rim of Wolf Volcano to the iconic Pinzón giant tortoise on Pinzón Island to the feeding blacktip reef sharks on Floreana Island, we’ve both found inspiration unlimited by exploring the islands that led Charles Darwin to develop his groundbreaking theory of evolution nearly two centuries ago.
We have both also witnessed a more recent process of rapid evolution in Galapagos, based on a common vision of restoring the abundance of life for which the archipelago is famous. This process is rewilding, a positive reframing for nature conservation. There is an idea that reseeding involves restoring nature at the expense of people, but we believe it is about integrating ourselves effectively into the ecosystems that support us – working with, rather than against, nature to creating thriving and resilient ecosystems for the benefit of all.
In short, modern rewilding is the revolutionary act of bringing people and the planet together. for people and the planet. It does not require any futuristic technology, relying instead on our scientific understanding of wildlife and ecosystems, combined with the traditional knowledge and wisdom of local communities and indigenous peoples, who are consistently the most effective stewards of the biodiversity of Earth. In the truest sense of the word, it restores our balance with nature.
In the Galápagos, where non-native rats and other invasive species have decimated populations of birds, reptiles and other wildlife, it is inspiring to see amazing examples of local communities deciding to restore and coexist with the nature, rather than exploiting it.
On Floreana, for example, locals are working together to eradicate invasive species by 2024 and return 13 native species to the island where they locally disappeared, by 2027. One such species is the Floreana giant tortoise. , whose return could reshape the entire island ecosystem. . As the turtles selectively browse on certain plants, they disperse the seeds of native species and create a mosaic of habitats, allowing the island to revert to a savanna-like ecosystem.
This will contribute to the return of other species which will collectively restore the health of the ecosystem, providing a cascade of benefits to the local Floreana community: climate resilience, protection of their food and water supplies, preservation of their culture and tourism. nature-oriented.
And as Floreana transforms, the ocean around it will also benefit from, among other things, the nutrient cycling of seabirds and reduced sedimentation due to the return of native vegetation.
The commitment to rewilding Floreana Island represents a shared vision of the Galápagos National Park Authority and the local community, who have played a leading role in co-designing these projects from the beginning.
Re:wild and management have now partnered with local environmental organizations such as Fundación Jocotoco to replicate this powerful model to rewild the rest of the islands. Re:wild is also taking this approach beyond the Galápagos with local partners elsewhere, including in all the Pacific archipelagos of Latin America, from Mexico to Chile.
We see other promising examples of rewilding elsewhere. In Australia, the reintroduction of Tasmanian devils to the mainland will help restore the whole ecosystem and reduce the intensity of wildfires by helping native small mammals to recover and forests to regenerate. In the Iberá wetlands in northeastern Argentina, local communities are very proud of the reintroduction of jaguars, which are reinvigorating ecotourism in the region. In Indonesia, communities on the island of Lombok are leading coral reef restoration just years after a major earthquake in 2018. And in the Caribbean, barren islands are being transformed into oases of lush wildlife that can mitigate the impacts of extreme weather conditions.
These are in the microcosm what reseeding could accomplish on a global scale when done in the right places: thriving wildlife communities living in harmony with thriving human communities. We both agree that responding to the climate and biodiversity crises plaguing the world is both the most fundamental and oldest of ideas and the most radical for creating a livable planet by working with nature rather than against her.
Danny Rueda Cordova is director of the Galapagos Direction of the national park. Leonardo DiCaprio is environmentalist, Academy Award-winning actor and founding board member of Re:wild.