2018 Galápagos Pink Iguana Report

Tracking the Galápagos Pink Iguana: Conservation of a Critically Endangered Flagship Species

Gabriele Gentile, University of Rome

Galapagos Pink Iguana
A Pink Iguana male (Photo G. Gentile)

Galapagos Pink Iguana
A Pink Iguana with a GPS device installed (Photo G. Colosimo)
The satellite gateway and one the weather stations installed on the top of Wolf Volcano, Isabela Island (Photo G. Colosimo)

Data collection: GPS devices collect data on iguana positions for approximately one year. 

Since their installation, in September 2019, GPSs have started collecting data. The satellite gateway had been already transported and tested in Galápagos in November 2018, but we could lift it up to the top of the volcano only when the helicopter became available. This occurred in September 2019. Now it has been assembled on the top of Wolf Volcano, where it works properly and regularly transmits data to the Galápagos National Park Directorate and the Tor Vergata University, in Rome, Italy.           

We provided the devices with a software algorithm that can evaluate the goodness and reliability of the points collected, allowing to filter bad data out. Filtered data are immediately plotted on a geographic map of the area. We are also working at an alternative way to retrieve data from the devices in case of poor communication between devices and the gateway or interruption of satellite connection. In fact, under those circumstances, collected data will not get lost, because they will remain stored in the memory of the device. We are working at the possibility retrieve them via a radio-receiving device installed on a drone overflying the area.

On-site dissemination activities with the Galapagos National Park Directorate

We took advantage of our trips to Galapagos to organize meetings (November 2018, and September 2019) with the local community, Municipality of Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island), Park rangers, and Park guides to illustrate the activities and objectives of the project. In coordination with the Communication Department of the Galápagos National Park we provided material to be popularized by local press and the Park’s website.


Even though the system works efficiently, the number of pink and yellow iguanas equipped with GPS units is still too low. By June 2020, that is before the laying season starts, more pink iguana females should be equipped with GPS units, to increase the opportunity to monitor gravid females migrating to nesting sites. Based on the sample size, sex ratio, and gravid/non-gravid ratio observed in previous mark/recapture sessions we estimate that at least 30 pink iguana females should be equipped with GPS units before the laying season starts. Usually, by late July most gravid pink iguana females have laid their eggs. We have to go there again and install more GPSs to maximize our chances of locating nest sites.

Galapagos Pink Iguana
Researchers in action. Weighing a Galapagos Pink Iguana (C. marthae) male. (Photo G. Colosimo)
Measuring iguanas -G cossimo