One of the key factors that attracts travelers to book Galapagos Islands cruises is the archipelago's celebrated wildlife. Indeed, the illustrious chain of islands has entranced many animal enthusiasts over the years, even inspiring the great Charles Darwin to conceive the theory of evolution. Yet while the much-vaunted theory preaches a doctrine of "survival of the fittest," scientists in the Galapagos have launched a new conservation program designed to protect many of the islands' weakest inhabitants from imported predators.

Over the years, the Galapagos have become overrun with Black and Norway rats, non-indigenous species that pose a serious threat to many of the archipelago's endemic population. The vermin, who many believe migrated to the island chain aboard pirate ships in the 17th century, are known to feed on eggs and hatchlings of local reptile and bird species, and carry diseases that can wipe out local mammals as well.

To date, the rats have affected the islands' populations of sea lions, marine iguana and sea turtles, and directly led to the endangered rating of more than 50 bird species, including the Galapagos petrel.

Deeming the rats a significant threat, conservationists have begun dropping an estimated 10 tons of poisoned cookies across the Galapagos, each fitted with a special scent that—while appetizing to rat species—is repellant to other wildlife.

"This project is the first of its kind in South America, and a significant step in the ongoing program to protect the native species of the Galapagos," Victor Carrion, technical coordinator for Galapagos National Park, told the Telegraph.

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