Graham Watkins: Runaway tourism threatens the future of the Galapagos Islands

Share
Related Topics

Very few places in the world have influenced humanity as much as the Galapagos Islands, and they have a pivotal year ahead. 2009 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Origin of Species, and the 50th anniversaries of the foundation of the Charles Darwin Foundation and the Galapagos National Park. But for all their importance, the islands are still under threat.

Today, this extraordinary archipelago, which has inspired countless visitors, is the premier natural environment in the world: one of the last well-conserved tropical archipelagos we have, and home to numerous unique species.

Since Charles Darwin's 1835 visit and his use of the islands to illustrate evolution and adaptive radiation in the Origin of Species, the islands have been the focus of additional important research in understanding natural selection. But the islands were long host to whalers and colonists too, who left a series of legacies. These include the decimation of tortoise populations and the introduction of many new species that have wreaked havoc on the native flora and fauna.

The islands are better conserved today than they were 100 years ago. Unfortunately, the runaway development of tourism means that the Galapagos are at risk again. Economic growth in the islands has drawn immigrants and increased the risks of new and increasingly dangerous, invasive species arriving. Resolving this problem will require strengthening governance, ensuring sustainable tourism, developing an island culture and continuing to restore the islands.

The solutions will be led by the people of Ecuador and will necessarily involve ensuring the standard of living of Galapagos residents. But it is the co-responsibility of the world to support the government of Ecuador in the process. We can conserve Galapagos, but only through the concerted actions of all of the actors. If we can achieve sustainability, the value to the world will extend well beyond saving one of the last remaining natural treasures, to being a model for sustainable societies everywhere.

Dr Graham Watkins, executive eirector of the Charles Darwin Foundation, was speaking last night as part of Galapagos Day. www.savegalapagos.org

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £30,000+

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for individual...

Recruitment Genius: IT Project Coordinator / Manager

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The possibility of Corbyn winning has excited some Conservatives  

Labour leadership: The choice at the heart of the leadership campaign

Jeremy Corbyn
Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Spain’s anti-austerity party Podemos  

Greece debt crisis: Trouble is, if you help the Greeks, everyone will want the same favours

Charlotte McDonald-Gibson Charlotte McDonald-Gibson
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy