A red sky over Fernandina: the Galápagos faces nature’s fury

A powerful eruption is threatening the extraordinary biodiversity of Fernandina Island in the Galapagos. Here also lives the last iconic giant tortoise belonging to a species that was thought to be extinct over a century ago...

Over the past weekend, the Fernandina Island in the Galápagos Archipelago witnessed a spectacular eruption from La Cumbre volcano, marking its first activity after four years of silence. The eruption began last Saturday, painting the sky red and sending rivers of lava cascading down to the Pacific Ocean shores.

The eruption’s duration remains uncertain

The duration of this eruptive activity is currently uncertain, as reported by Ecuador’s Ministry of Environment, Water, and Ecological Transition. Fortunately, this event, potentially the most powerful since 2017, poses no risk to human life since Fernandina Island is uninhabited.

However, the eruption could pose a significant threat to the rich ecosystem of the volcanic archipelago. This corner of the world is a treasure trove of biodiversity, home to iconic species such as the Galápagos iguanas, penguins, sea lions, and seals.

An unexpected discovery

The island gained fame for an unexpected discovery in 2019 when scientists found a giant tortoise, belonging to a species (Chelonoidis phantasticus) thought to be extinct for over a century.

The discovery of Fernanda, as named by researchers from Princeton University, sparked hope for the future of these nearly mythical creatures. This was only the second giant Galápagos tortoise identified since 1906 when explorer Rollo Beck discovered a male specimen.

A reminder of volcanic activity

“The current eruption of La Cumbre volcano, while not posing a significant and immediate threat to the Galápagos wildlife, serves as a stark reminder of the constant volcanic activity that has shaped these islands over millions of years and that occasionally can endanger species,”explains the team of experts and volunteers at Galápagos Conservancy.

For years, this organization has been actively engaged in protecting the turtles and other wildlife that inhabit the archipelago.

Source: Galàpagos Conservacy

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