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One thing I have been able to learn from this visit is that Galapagos Island is and will continue to be a Mecca for visitors, tourists and scientists alike, that want to see and experience first hand the endemic and migrant wildlife that is part of a five million year evolution that is happening in these volcanic islands.  These are indeed magical islands!  Unfortunately, these islands are in the process of being destroyed if the number of visitors to these islands continues to grow at its present rate.

Last year the Galapagos Islands was added to the World Heritage Danger List by the World Conservation Union.  The Islands have seen an increase in the annual visitor numbers from 40,000 in 1996 to 120,000 in 2007.  Ecuadorian immigrants from the mainland, continue to grow by 4% every year, a growth that is presently not sustainable.  Presently, 75% of Galapaguenos are afuereños and 25% are natives.  An afuereño is an Ecuadorian with a one year work permit that is renewable provided the person leaves to the mainland at the end of the year to reapply for a new permit.  Add the problem of illegal immigrants, an Ecuadorian with no work permit, to a booming tourism industry and Galapagos now becomes a fragile ecosystem in danger.

Here are a few environmental issues:

  • Local enforcement officials are unable to control illegal fishing.
  • Continued growth of invasive species brought to these islands by visitors.  The number of invasive species brought by visitors is now outnumbering the number of native species in the islands.
  • Limited water supply to meet the growth of the population.
  • Inadequate infrastructure facilities to accommodate island growth.

What is clear is that the growth of the numbers of visitors to Galapagos is expected to continue its growth.  While presently there is a cap to the numbers of visitors that can visit the islands, the cap is always expandable.  It is presently dictated by market forces or purely political, not environmental, goals.

Suggested Reading

1. Tourism, the Economy, Population Growth and Conservation in Galapagos, by the Charles Darwin Foundation. 

2. PROYECTO INTEGRAL GALÁPAGOS, PROGRAMA ARAUCARIA

3. MARCO CONCEPTUAL PARA LAS ESPECIES INTRODUCIDAS, by the Charles Darwin Foundation.

4. Galapagos Conservation, Some Projects

5. Galapagos Conservation Trust

6. CONSERVATION AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT LAW FOR GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

7. Present Challenges in Galapagos, by the Charles Darwin Foundation.