GALápagos conservancy



Dearest Galápagos Conservancy Community,

Nearly four decades ago, we embarked on a shared mission to safeguard one of the world’s greatest treasures — the Galápagos Archipelago. In this report, you’ll read about our journey through 2023 — a year in which our dedicated team once again tackled critical challenges, made significant advancements in conservation, and witnessed flourishing in many new parts of this irreplaceable ecosystem.

Last year we conducted the first-ever comprehensive census of all ten giant tortoise populations across the southern region of Isabela island. This was a monumental effort that has identified what’s needed to protect and restore these species to their original numbers, a process we are now beginning in 2024.

We also repatriated over 500 Galápagos giant tortoises from captivity to their natural habitats, where they now thrive.

Our field team continued its vital work on the top of Wolf volcano, identifying the key next steps for saving the Critically Endangered pink iguana from extinction.

We confirmed a vital connection between Waved Albatross and giant tortoises, a finding that guides a holistic approach to both species’ protection.

In 2023 we also saw a strengthening in our alliances with local people, schools, travel partners, local municipalities, and key institutions of Galápagos: the National Park and the Galápagos Biosecurity Agency, amplifying each others’ efforts on behalf of these ‘Enchanted Isles.'

While we celebrate our progress, we remain acutely aware of the monumental and ongoing task at hand. However, we are undaunted in our commitment to this mission — in no small part because of your invaluable partnership.

Thank you for standing with us for Galápagos!

With sincere gratitude,

Dr. James Gibbs

President, Galápagos Conservancy

Conservation without the fluff.

Symbolic adoption of stuffed animals is nice, but your support to Galápagos Conservancy enables us to work every day to save the living and breathing animals of Galápagos.




conservation projects



tortoises adopted for life through our Adopt a Giant Tortoise Program


giant tortoises reintroduced to the wild


critical field expeditions to the islands of Fernandina, Santiago,

Santa Fé, Santa Cruz, Isabela, and Española

education for sustainability


of teachers trained to implement a sustainability-based curriculum

that reaches all students

in Galápagos


PreK through 12 students educated through projects that highlight the relationship between nature, economy, and society


charitable source of conservation support for the Galápagos community

our organization


total annual funds raised


years conserving, protecting, and restoring Galápagos


of our funds go to conservation efforts


To my Colleagues in Conservation,

I am filled with gratitude and awe as I reflect on our progress over the past year. Looking into the highlights of this Impact Report, it is clear that such accomplishments would not have been possible without your unwavering support. You stand alongside us as the true heroes in our mission to conserve, protect, and restore Galápagos.

Your support is propelling us into a new era of conservation in action with greater speed and ambition. Through Iniciativa Galápagos, our signature conservation program, we ushered over 500 critically endangered hatchling tortoises from their nests on Santiago island to specialized incubators for attentive care. We assure survival rates are over 90% compared to just 10% in the wild. This success rate exponentially decreases the amount of time it will take to rewild Santiago island, and soon, Floreana island. This initiative to restore these ecosystem engineers has been crucial to restoring the health of the entire Galápagos ecosystem.

But your support benefits more than just Galápagos. What we learn and do in the archipelago helps to protect nature around the world. On my last visit to Galápagos,

I met with experts from Argentina who came to learn our conservation strategies so they could replicate them in their home country. Your support has a global impact!

As the number one source of nonprofit support for conservation in Galápagos, and with a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, you can rest assured that your support for our mission is more than symbolic. Your generosity is the lifeline that allows us to confront emerging threats, save species from extinction, and restore critical habitats. 

Despite our successes, big challenges remain. From climate change, invasive species, and El Niño, to the inevitable impact of human habitation and visitation in Galápagos, getting ahead of these challenges will take an extraordinary effort from us all. Thank you, more than ever, for your continued support of our mission. Your dedication motivates and empowers us every day. United, we can make a difference.

Together, we are Galápagos Conservancy.

With gratitude,

Joshua McCoy

Vice President of Outreach and Philanthropy


DR. Jim Gallagher, Galápagos Conservancy supporter since 2000

“On the way home from my first trip to the Galápagos in 2002, I enthusiastically signed on with the Conservancy, and have supported its forward-looking work ever since. My interest is sustained by the frequent reports on Conservancy projects in the Islands, and occasional opportunities to participate in donor events. One special one was a small-boat trip in 2012 to islands not usually visited on regular tours and led by Conservancy staff members. I've also listed them in my will for a special bequest to help continue the valuable work of these dedicated conservationists in the ‘last best place on earth.’"


JJ L'Heureux, Galápagos Conservancy supporter since 1991

“Frank is the name of my adopted Galápagos tortoise. Frank, my human friend, accompanied me on my first visit to the Galápagos in 1973 ... There have been changes on the islands, but the one constant is people caring about these unique animals. Galápagos Conservancy works not only with the animals but the people who live next to them. I continue to learn from their projects and know my donations have helped. I have had the good fortune to visit these magical islands for over 50 years and can't wait to meet my new adopted tortoise friend Frank in the future.”

Hope for the Future: A Compass for Southern Isabela's Tortoise Restoration

In 2023 the future of Galápagos' iconic giants became clearer. In partnership with the Galápagos National Park Directorate, we reached a remarkable milestone: completion of the first-ever comprehensive census of all 10 giant tortoise populations on the southern region of Isabela island. This achievement marks the first step in a ten-year journey to restore two Critically Endangered species, Chelonoidis vicina and Chelonoidis guntheri.

This year-long effort took place as our team searched meticulously for tortoises across the challenging landscapes of two remote volcanoes. They found over 4,200 tortoises on Cerro Azul and just 461 on Sierra Negra.

The census findings are more than just numbers; they are a roadmap to targeted action. We now understand the challenges and opportunities facing tortoise populations in the southern part of Isabela island. Invasive species, particularly feral pigs, abandoned dogs, cattle, rats, fire ants, and invasive plants, pose a significant danger to tortoise hatchlings. This was confirmed in our 2023 expeditions when we witnessed the shortage of younger tortoises on both volcanoes.

The vulnerability of southern Isabela island's giant tortoises demands our immediate attention and decisive action


Dear Galápagos Champions,

As General Director of Galápagos Conservancy, I have the privilege of leading a passionate and highly capable group of scientists and conservationists who share a profound commitment to protect the ecological wonder that is Galápagos.

While Galápagos will always be a bucket-list destination for many, for us it is our home. Locally sourced conservation is our cornerstone. We believe solutions to many of Galápagos' challenges lie within the archipelago itself. Empowering local communities through education and partnership is vital to achieving lasting success.

This past year with your help, and in partnership with the Galápagos National Park Directorate, we made lasting progress on various fronts across the archipelago. But three key projects stand out to me for their impact and illustrate the interconnectedness of our efforts. 

These projects represent just a small sample of the important work we carried out last year on behalf of Galápagos. Your continued support allows us to embark on these critical missions and fuels our passion for safeguarding this treasure.  

With gratitude,

Washington Tapia

General Director, Galápagos Conservancy

Together, we can ensure that this irreplaceable ecosystem not only endures but thrives, inspiring generations to come.”


Saving the Critically Endangered Pink Iguana from Extinction

With only about 300 individuals remaining, the pink iguana is both a living symbol of the unique biodiversity of Galápagos, and an illustration of the urgency of our work.

Expeditions in Support of Tortoise Recovery

Dedicated conservation staff members ventured into the field to assess ecological conditions, survey tortoise populations, and identify suitable individuals for breeding programs, crucial to restore these magnificent creatures to their historical distribution and numbers.

Examining the impact of climate change ON THE MARINE LIFE OF GALÁPAGOS

Last year we partnered with researchers on a new scientific venture to examine how climate change is affecting the archipelago's endemic sea lions and fur seals.




ISABELA island


After captive rearing and breeding,

30 Chelonoidis chatamensis tortoises endemic to San Cristobal were repatriated to their

natural habitat.

Along with a team of park rangers, we carried out the first comprehensive census of Isabela island's southern volcanoes, mapping ten distinct populations of giant tortoises (Chelonoidis vicina and Chelonoidis guntheri).

During the census, researchers counted 4,146 tortoises in Cerro Azul and 461 in Sierra Negra. However, these numbers represent only a portion of the total populations. Estimates suggest that Cerro Azul is home to approximately 5,275 tortoises, and Sierra Negra has about 704.

Although there are signs of recovery in the C. vicina species, the situation for C. guntheri tortoises is still very concerning.

To help recover these population, 350 tortoises (214 C. guntheri and 136 C. vicina) were successfully reintroduced to their

natural habitat.

During our expedition, we

noted a significant male bias in the sex ratio among the island’s 700-800 Chelonoidis darwini, prompting targeted conservation efforts.

We transported 169 eggs and 112 hatchlings to Santa Cruz's Breeding and Rearing Center, which increased their survival rate to 99%. Repatriation of these tortoises is planned to be in five years to aid population recovery.

Galapagos island map silhouette


97 Chelonoidis donfaustoi tortoises endemic to Santa Cruz were repatriated to their natural habitat.

española island

In March, the repatriation of 86 juvenile Chelonoidis hoodensis tortoises significantly contributed to enhancing the species' distribution across their native habitat.

Rebounding from just 14 individuals in the 1960s to an estimated 3,000 today, this species' journey represents a remarkable triumph in conservation efforts. Meanwhile, 250 additional tortoises are being prepared for future release.

pink iguanas

fernandina island

Our search for pink iguanas (Conolophus marthae) in their natural habitat on Wolf volcano yielded an unprecedented discovery: two juveniles and one subadult iguana were observed together during a single expedition.

The quest to find a mate for Fernanda, the last known Fernandina giant tortoise (Chelonoidis phantasticus), persisted with dedication and hope.

While the specific aim to find a mate for Fernanda remained unfulfilled, the expedition yielded valuable insights into the distribution and ecology of other species in the area.


The discovery of over 50 new takeoff and landing areas for the Waved Albatross (Phoebastria irrorata) has led to plans for cleanup operations, scheduled to start in 2024.

Two expeditions were carried out to conduct a comprehensive census and update the data on the iconic Waved Albatross, with the nesting population now estimated to be around 35,000 individuals.

EDUCATION FOR SUSTAINABILITY: Cultivating the Conservation

Stewards of Tomorrow

In 2023 we witnessed several exciting developments in Galápagos Conservancy's Education for Sustainability program. As part of the 13th and 14th annual Galápagos Teachers Institute, and with our local partners, we trained every PreK-12 educator across the archipelago to implement an innovative, sustainability-based curriculum, which will reach every student in the islands over the next few years. 

Core to this program is equipping educators with the tools to integrate sustainable development and environmental awareness into their classrooms. Through the Teachers Institutes, Galápagos teachers gain the knowledge and skills to empower students as future conservation stewards.

But the impact extends beyond just the transfer of knowledge. These training sessions inspire curiosity and make direct connections to the environment for teachers and students alike, with a ripple effect on the greater community — underscoring the power of education as a tool for change. This model has universal relevance, as well, and has served as a template for schools elsewhere, fostering environmentally conscious citizens more broadly.


of PreK-12 educators trained in innovative sustainability


students reached



This discovery underscores the interconnectedness of the Galápagos ecosystem. By focusing on restoring one species, we indirectly improve the habitat for another. This newly acquired knowledge allows us to strengthen the synergies between our conservation strategies. By actively restoring giant tortoise populations, we not only ensure their survival but also contribute to the recovery of the Critically Endangered Waved Albatross.

This finding reinforces the importance of comprehensive ecological research and a holistic conservation strategy. Understanding the intricate web of life in Galápagos allows us to develop more effective and interconnected strategies for ensuring the long-term health of all of its inhabitants.

Read more on The Atlantic.

This year's surveys of nesting Waved Albatross on Española island shed valuable insights about this critically endangered and endemic species. The comprehensive surveys revealed an unknown and fascinating link between the health of the albatross population and ongoing restoration efforts for Española's giant tortoises.

The Waved Albatross requires open areas for safe takeoff and landing, especially during the breeding season. Our findings revealed a not previously known connection between these majestic birds and the island's giant tortoise population. As the tortoise restoration program progresses and more tortoises return to their natural habitats, landscape changes that occur directly benefit the albatross. The presence of these gentle giants creates vital clearings that were previously obstructed by dense vegetation, allowing albatrosses to fly successfully.

Twig Of Tree with Leaves

Woody vegetation will be removed from 45 critical areas to improve albatross nesting areas


tortoises released as “ecosystem engineers” to manage vegetation growth


Improved nesting conditions across an estimated 20% of the species’ nesting range

The Unique Iguanas of Galápagos Face a

Critical Fight for Survival

Iguanas arrived to Galápagos millions of years ago and evolved into four distinct species. These resilient creatures, vital to the ecosystems of the archipelago, have been facing a variety of threats, ranging from invasive species to climate change.

Thanks to our supporters and dedicated team, Galápagos Conservancy is addressing these challenges through targeted conservation efforts for each of the four iguana species. These efforts are made through a collaboration with the Galápagos National Park Directorate called ‘Iniciativa Galápagos.’

A Collaborative and Integrated Approach

Across all species, our work emphasizes the integration of habitat protection, scientific research, and community engagement. We are not only aiming to protect these unique iguana species but also restore their numbers to levels where they can help maintain their ecosystems once again.

Yellow Land Iguana

Pallid Land Iguana

  • Population Surveys: Carried out detailed population surveys on keystone islands, including Baltra, North Seymour, and Isabela islands.
  • Repopulation in Santiago: A recent expedition to Santiago island assessed the feasibility of the island’s repopulation with yellow land iguanas. Our long-term aim is to rebuild the iguana population of Santiago in addition to maintaining the extant populations on North Seymour island.

  • Habitat Evaluation: Identified habitat needs and environmental conditions crucial for their survival.
  • Monitoring: Implementing regular monitoring to track population health and habitat changes.

Marine Iguana

Pink Iguana

  • Health Monitoring: Funded health monitoring to understand El Niño event impacts on marine iguana populations.
  • Habitat Protection: Worked on initiatives to reduce pollution and control invasive species in marine iguana habitats.
  • Public Awareness: Raised awareness about the threats climate change poses to these iguanas.

  • Discovery and Monitoring: First detection of pink iguana hatchlings was a significant milestone, providing new insights into the species breeding.
  • Tracking Current Threats: Identified rats and feral cats as threats for iguana hatchlings through camera traps and other monitoring techniques.
  • Habitat Protection – Ongoing work with the Galápagos National Park to mitigate the threats invasive species pose.