Volcano erupts on Galapagos island home to endangered iguana

About 200 pink iguanas are left on the slopes of the Wolf volcano on Isabela Island, the largest in the Galapagos.

A pink iguana from Isabela island in the Galapagos
The pink iguana has been described as 'one of the most vulnerable species' in the Galapagos archipelago [Freddy Jimenez/Galapagos National Park/AFP]

A volcano has erupted on an island in the Galapagos that is home to a critically endangered iguana, the Galapagos National Park announced on Friday, but it said the species was far from the affected area.

The Wolf volcano’s slopes host the pink iguana, only 211 of which were reported to be left on Isabela, the largest island in the Galapagos archipelago, as of last August.

The volcano, the highest of the Galapagos, is some 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the nearest human settlement.

In a statement shared on Facebook on Friday, the Galapagos National Park said the volcano was emitting plumes of smoke and ash several thousand metres high, which were moving towards the north side of the island where no people are at risk.

The national park said it sent eight park rangers and scientists working with the pink iguanas to check out the situation on Friday morning as a matter of precaution.

“The team confirmed that the habitat of these species is far from the eruption and the impact zone, so no additional protection measures are currently being considered,” the statement read.

Located in the Pacific approximately 1,000km (600 miles) off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are a protected wildlife area and home to unique species of flora and fauna.

The archipelago was made famous by British geologist and naturalist Charles Darwin‘s observations on evolution there.

The area also hosts yellow iguanas and the famous Galapagos giant tortoises.

The pink iguana was first spotted by park rangers in 1986 and classified as a separate species to other land iguanas on the Galapagos in 2009, according to the Galapagos Conservation Trust (GCT), a UK-registered charity that works on conservation on the islands.

The Wolf volcano spews smoke and lava on Isabela island during its last eruption in 2015
The Wolf volcano spews smoke and lava on Isabela island during its last eruption in 2015 [Galapagos National Park/Diego Paredes/Handout via Reuters]

Describing the iguanas as “one of the most vulnerable species in Galapagos”, the trust said on its website that only approximately 200 of them are left on the island, confined to a 25sq-km (9.6sq miles) area on the slopes of the Wolf volcano. They are found nowhere else.

“Similar in appearance to Galapagos land iguanas, they have a short head and powerful hind legs with sharp claws on their toes, but despite their intimidating appearance they are primarily herbivores – feeding on prickly pear leaves and fruit,” it said.

“Their only defining characteristic is their colouring; pink with dark vertical stripes along their body.”

The Wolf volcano last erupted in 2015 after 33 years of inactivity, without affecting local wildlife.

For its part, the Geophysical Institute of Quito said the 1,707-metre (5,600-foot) volcano spewed gas-and-ash clouds as high as 3,800 metres (12,467 feet) into the air, with lava flows on its southern and southeastern slopes.

Isabela island also hosts four other active volcanos.

Source: AFP, Al Jazeera