(AFP) – May 30, 2008
QUITO (AFP) — A volcano on the largest of the Galapagos islands has erupted and is threatening rare giant tortoises that live in the area, Ecuadoran officials said Friday.
The Cerro Azul volcano on Isabela Island began erupting on Thursday, officials with the Galapagos National Park said in a statement.
The island is home to rare and unique flora and fauna, including the Galapagos Giant Tortoise, which can weigh more than 230 kilos (500 pounds) and live more than 100 years.
"The eruption is a natural process" because the Galapagos islands "are of volcanic origin," the park said in a statement.
However the volcano is spewing lava on the north-east side of the island where a large population of tortoises lives, it added.
Park rangers are monitoring the volcano's activity to make sure that "neither human lives nor the population of giant tortoises are at risk," the statement said.
There are five active volcanos on Isabela, including Sierra Negra, which erupted in October 2006. Cerro Azul last erupted in 1998.
Located 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) west of Ecuador's coast, the archipelago of 13 main islands and 17 islets is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In 2007, UNESCO declared the archipelago's environment in danger due to the increase of tourism and the introduction of invasive species.
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