Volcano Threatens Galapagos Wildlife

In this photo released by Galapagos National Park, La Cumbre volcano erupts in the Galapagos islands, Ecuador, Sunday, April 12, 2009. Galapagos National Park officials said the volcano's eruption after four years of inactivity, could harm unique wildlife.(AP Photo/Galapagos National Park)
AP Photo/Galapagos National Park
Officials at the Galapagos National Park said on Sunday that a volcanic eruption on Fernandina island could pose a threat to the unique wildlife of the area.

The Galapagos National Park said La Cumbre volcano began spewing lava, gas and smoke and steam on uninhabited Fernandina Island on Saturday after four years of inactivity.

Following a flight over the island, Galapagos National Park official Oscar Carvajal said, "We saw a crack 200 meters long from which lava is coming out."

Carvajal said rivers of lava were also sighted moving to other points of the island.

The park said in a statement that the eruption is not a threat to people living on nearby Isabela Island, but lava flowing to the sea is likely to affect marine and terrestrial iguanas and other fauna.

A park official told AP Television that it was hoped the heat from the eruption would alert the maritime iguanas and the birds and instinct would force them to leave.

There are around 700,000 maritime iguanas at Galapagos National Park, a colony of 300 live in Fernandina island.

The Galapagos are home to unique animal and plant species that became the basis for much of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

(AP Photo/Galapagos National Park)
The remote island chain owes its existence to volcanic activity and most of the islands are relatively young in geological terms.

Scientists say Fernandina, with 250 square miles, is the island with the most volcanic activity in the archipelago but other islands have also seen eruptions in recent decades.

La Cumbre, 4,842 feet, last erupted in May 2005.