Nik Darlington 6.02am
The males show off their grooves and try to impress females with dance moves to die for. He stamps his feet on the ground with inelegant insobriety. He spreads his arms wide - whether this is an invitation to the female or part of his clumsy courtship dance is indeterminate. He whistles, head held high, drunk on the moment. Courtship and the subsequent sex is opportunistic and indiscriminate. All of this takes place in tightly packed colonies of other males and females.
This may seem like just any sticky-floored nightclub on a British weekend, but this isn’t just any nightclub. This is the most unique, most precious, most fragile nightclub on Earth: this is the Galapagos Islands.
Living on this Pacific archipelago is a very special and endearing little bird, the Blue-Footed Booby. It gets its name from the word bobo, which is Spanish for “stupid” or “clown”. And it has blue feet. Very blue feet. An electric blue, the type of unnatural blue you only see in swirls in your toothpaste. On a bird’s feet. The Lord must have made the Blue-Footed Booby on the morning of the sixth day. Hungover, just for giggles.
This Friday, 17th June, we all get to celebrate the foolish hilarity of this little tropical bird because it is Blue-Footed Booby Day. Set up by the Galapagos Conservation Trust (GCT), the UK’s only charity dedicated to the islands, the day aims to raise awareness of the need to protect the Blue-Footed Booby from joining other Galapagos friends on the endangered list.
Experts confirm that Blue-Footed Booby numbers are declining. Nesting and feeding sites have been destroyed through the impact of fishing, the introduction of other species and a growing population. Sir David Attenborough tells us:
We can screw up Galapagos in the way that we can very easily screw up the whole planet. These islands are an example, a parable, for how we treat the natural world. Get it right in Galapagos and the islands can provide a model for the world.
Andrew Marr, the president of the GTC, describes the Galapagos as “truly astonishing” and “delicate”. With the fate of these islands is tied up the fate of such an array of unique wildlife, of which the Blue-Footed Booby is just one example. The GCT has already undertaken important monitoring work to save the endangered Galapagos Penguin and critically endangered Floreana Mockingbird. The islands are also home to such fascinating animals as the Galapagos Tortoise (which can live to 150 years old) and the Marine Iguana.
To support Blue-Footed Booby Day, all you have to do is put on a pair of blue socks or shoes (the more garish the better, in my books), donate as little as £2 to the cause, and get your friends and colleagues to join in. And if you’ll be out dancing this Friday night, show off your bright blue footwear with pride. Every little helps.
To donate, text “BFBD11” to 70070 and say how much you would like to give (so for instance, “BFBD11£2”).
Follow Nik on Twitter @NikDarlington