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Saving the Galapagos means rebuilding nature

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CAN YOU REALLY put nature back together again? If anyone can, it's someone with the brash charm and frenetic energy of Felipe Cruz. A native Galápagan as addicted to his Blackberry as he is to the pull of the caves and nests he explored in his barefoot boyhood on Floreana Island, he already has revolutionized rat and goat eradication, a first step in rebuilding an ecosystem.

As the chief architect of Project Floreana – an unprecedented plan to restore a whole island ecosystem – he's an environmental Renaissance man. A director of the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF), he's the go-to guy for international scientists – a trained biologist who speaks their technical language but seems unable to resist noting that "since I was 22 I have been the boss of gringos." He's a hands-on conservationist, boasting that Prince Philip of England personally consulted him about Buckingham Palace rats after hearing of his talent for eradication. He's also a Galápagos insider – among his 11 siblings are a former governor of the islands and a former Galápagos National Park director – respected up and down the social ladder of the island community, even if his job occasionally makes him a political target of everything from rioters' rocks to telephoned death threats.

Certainly, reconstructing nature is a prospect fraught with contradictions. Can it really be natural if it is created by human design?

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