Wellington, Aug 23 NZPA
A New Zealand conservation biologist will travel to the Galapagos Islands to help try to save a critically endangered species of mockingbird which played a pivotal role in inspiring Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
Massey University scientist Luis Ortiz-Catedral will join the Charles Darwin Foundation in the Galapagos Islands archipelago, 970km west of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean, to help reintroduce the Floreana mockingbird to its home island.
The mockingbird was wiped out on Floreana within several decades of its discovery, but small numbers remain on the satellite islets of Champion and Gardner-by-Floreana.
It is known as “Darwin’s muse” for the pivotal role it played in inspiring Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, which was first published in 1859.
“I’m really excited to be following in Darwin’s footsteps,” Mr Ortiz-Catedral said.
“The Galapagos Islands are like Mecca for a biologist. It’s one of those places I’ve always imagined. After 11 years of education as a biologist, its a great honour to be asked to go.”
Mr Ortiz-Catedral was chosen for his experience in reintroducing the endangered kakariki, or red-crowned parakeet, to Auckland’s mainland and offshore islands.
He helped to move 124 kakariki from Little Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf to nearby Motuihe Island and Tawharanui Regional Park by helicopter over a three-year period.
Mr Ortiz-Catedral said New Zealand was widely recognised as a leader in successful transfers of threatened species.
As a native of Mexico, his fluency in Spanish would also be a plus in helping him to work alongside Spanish-speaking Ecuadoreans.
The Galapagos Islands has faced similar conservation challenges to New Zealand, with many of its species devastated by introduced predators.
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