Volcanic eruption in Galapagos not threatening tortoises, people

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

2007 Isabella Island in the Galápagos by SPOT Satellite

The eruption of Cerro Azul on Isabella Island, the main island in the Galápagos of Ecuador, is not directly threatening either the famous Galápagos Tortoises(wikipedia) or the human population of the island, unlike in the 1998 eruption.

The latest eruption began Thursday, 29 May, and includes lava flows. Reuters reports that after Galápagos Park rangers flew over the mountain, they released a statement saying that the lava is flowing away from both the Puerto Villamil settlement and the region where the tortoises are ranging.

"There is no threat to the local human population ... nor for the tortoise population because lava rivers are flowing in the opposite direction," the statement read.

2005 Galápagos giant tortoise, Geochelone elephantopus, by Matthew Field

Up to four lava flows have been sighted, and "have consumed a lot of vegetation," said Park official Oscar Carvajal to local station Radio Quito. Ecuador's Geophysics Institute reported a small amount of ash from the 1,690 m mountain.

During the last major eruption of Cerro Azul in 1998, some tortoises were airlifted away from the fire and lava, but others were burned in the natural disaster. Volcanic activity within the island group is high, and the island of Isabella is itself formed by six shield volcanoes, with five of the six still being active.

The Galápagos archipelago lies 525 nautical miles west of the mainland of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean, directly on the equator.