I’m traveling in the Galapagos currently. Hopefully I’m having fun and seeing great birds and other species! In the meantime here’s a little of what I will hopefully be seeing!
The Galapagos’s Natural and Unnatural History: Charles Darwin Research Station
One of the places we’ll be visiting is the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS). Founded in 1964, the CDRS is tasked with conserving the Galapagos. Over 100 scientists from Ecuador and around the world collaborate in the race to preserve the archipelago. One of the projects they are best known for is their conservation and breeding programs for the tortoises.
Also, the CDRS works with the Galapagos National Park Service in the conservation mission. Over 97% of the land is preserved. With such protection is there still a threat to the islands?
In 2007, the UNESCO added the Galapagos National Park to its List of World Heritage Sites in Danger, reflecting the dangers posed by a fast pace of human development in all its areas: immigration, tourism and trade, all increasing the likelihood of introduction of invasive species to the islands. This represents the gravest danger to the fragile ecosystems which have evolved over millions of years in natural isolation.
The Galapagos is truly a microcosm for the world. If evolution is more stark here, so are the troubles that face every region: the balance between human needs and environmental needs. In a country where the average income is $5,000 (the base cost of the trip), the Galapagos for many represent hope for a better life. So immigration there increases as people hope to make a better living profiting from the tourists. They need more land, more resources, have more of an impact on the ecosystems. Many tour operators and shops operate under ecotourism principals, but not all of them, and it is the savvy traveler who can distinguish between them. Not to mention that even the most conscious of operators or travelers may be the unwitting conduct transporting a surprise guest onto a new island.
Do I feel guilty for traveling there and contributing to the burden? Of course I do. It’s a complex situation with few clear answers.
Video: Visiting the Charles Darwin Research Station in the Galapagos (National Geographic)