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Last Updated: Friday, 30 December 2005, 15:40 GMT
Tackling smelly sea lion problem
By Georgina Kenyon

Sea lion (Galapagos Conservation Trust)
Very cute - unless you are down wind (Image: Galapagos Conservation Trust)
The iconic islands of the Galapagos are world famous for their flora and fauna.

But just don't expect the locals to wax lyrical about the sea lions if you are ever fortunate to visit.

"Sea lions are cute but they are also very smelly," said Roslyn Cameron, Development Manager, Department of Institutional Development, Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) based on Santa Cruz island, Galapagos Islands.

The residents were so fed up with the smelly faeces and urine of the sea lions in the plaza areas and along "Sailor Beach" on San Cristobal Island, that they formed a special sea lion task force to deal with the problem.

It was one sea lion colony that has been the main focus of this initiative-the Sailors Beach crowd; the sea lions also congregated in the plaza, to rest and sun bake, and so defecated there as well.

The result of these years of frustration has been the development of sea lion "pooper scooper"; a stainless steel water pump that sluices away the excrement after 0800 every day once the sea lions have headed to the ocean to feed or have moved down to the sand areas of Sailor Beach (so named because of its close proximity to the local navy base).

Clean-up operation

Residents and local business owners who reside and work in the main street of Puerto Baquerizo Morenoa, San Cristobal Island organised themselves into a small group and applied to a small grants fund that encourages locally-initiated conservation projects, the Funds for Local Conservation Action program, to clean up the beaches.

Pump (Darwin Foundation)
The pumps may provide the answer (Image: Darwin Foundation)
The programme is now managed by the Charles Darwin Foundation (the funding arm of the CDRS).

According to Cameron: "The beach zone and rest area clean up and maintenance was deemed a priority due to the degradation of the facilities and the inability for visitors and residents to enjoy the area.

"The most important factor was the stench of the feces and urine excreted in the plaza area. People were beginning to chase the animals away or to avoid this section of town to the detriment of the businesses there."

The plaza has a tile pavement which impeded the filtration of the urea and fecal liquids creating strong odours especially during warmer weather. On the beach itself the liquids could drain away so it was not such a problem.

The group decided that the best answer was to pressure-clean the plaza area daily, eliminating the sea lion excrement and its smell.

Pooper scooper

Cameron explains that the initiative is positive in many aspects; it creates a job for someone, plus it keeps the public area meticulous and enables the sea lions to continue to use the area along with the humans.

The cost of the "pooper scooper" scheme is US$1,960, which according to Cameron is a small price to help local initiative that also protects the endemic species and cleaner interesting tourist attraction.

Sea lion (Galapagos Conservation Trust)
Sea lion (Image: Galapagos Conservation Trust)
"Humans and sea lions can now live in harmony," she claims.

The CDRS conducts and facilitates scientific research in Galapagos to supply information and technical assistance to the Galapagos National Park Service and other branches of the government.

The Research Station has a team of some two hundred scientists, educators, volunteers, research students and support staff from all over the world.

The CDRS receives funding from groups such as the Galapagos Conservation Trust in London.

According to Leonor Stjepic the Director of the GCT, the main issues for Galapagos conservation include the control of introduced species and the over-exploitation of natural resources.

The Galapagos is a double World Heritage Site (WHS). The land area was among the first natural WHS to be declared in 1978, the marine area was included in 2001.




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