Posted by: ecodestination | August 24, 2009

The Galapagos Islands under threat

Photo from prontohotel.com

Photo from prontohotel.com

These islands are a choice destination for nature lovers. It is an area that still retains untainted archipelagos—some of the few left in the globe. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a Biosphere Reserve with significant biodiversity of wildlife.

(FYI: The Galapagos is a group of volcanic islands in the Pacific located 972 km west of Ecuador, right on the equator.)

It seems that island officials, businessmen and locals, together with ecologist and Galapagos resident Gunter Reck, are speaking up about the threat inherent to overpopulation on their land, caused in part by tourism.

UNESCO already placed the islands on its World Heritage in Danger list in 2007.

Energy, water, and waste problems have been exacerbated by the escalating amount of tourists, but also the growing population and the consequent agricultural and other practices – which are evidently being practiced irresponsibly. It’s kind of like Twitter—the burgeoning amount of users causes the system to collapse. And this will continue to occur until they upgrade it or lower the amount of users—or tourists, as the case may be.

photo by consumerbrigade.com

photo by consumerbrigade.com

97% of the islands constitute a National Park, according to the WWF.

However, there is a conundrum: 80% to 85% of the population relies on the tourism industry to make an income, and many families are large by Western standards, comprising of 4+ kids.

But that’s not all.

A persisting threat is the plants and animals introduced by humans (some of them pirates!). Species such as feral goats, cats, and cattle have become invasive and are destroying the habitats of native animals. And because these native species did not originally have any predators to be wary of, they have no skills to defend themselves of these new bullies. Poor wusses. Just kidding.

Amazingly mild and friendly seals - photo from the bs report

Amazingly mild and friendly seals - photo from the bs report

Plant species like guava, avocado, elephant grass, and citrus fruits like oranges and lemons have managed to become invasive as well, obliterating native plant species in the humid areas of San Cristobal, Isabela, and other parts of the islands.

Also, local environmentalists fear the growing poultry industry may spread disease to wild birds, and illegal fishing activities are messing with the marine sanctuary. Especially targeted are sharks – for their delicious fins, I imagine.

And poachers are slaughtering the mild-mannered sea lions. Wikipedia tells us that

On January 28, 2008, Galapagos National Park official Victor Carrion announced the killing of 53 sea lions (13 pups, 25 youngsters, 9 males and 6 females) at Pinta, Galapagos Islands nature reserve with their heads caved in. In 2001 poachers killed 35 male sea lions.

Can you even begin to imagine how a person could bash the head of a sea lion in? Despicable! - photo by naturetrek.co.uk

Can you even begin to imagine how a person could bash the head of a sea lion in? Despicable! - photo by naturetrek.co.uk

So heartless.

Read more about the threats to the Galapagos Islands here and here. If that’s not enough for you, be assured that you’ll find tons more info through a simple Google search.

Note: I am currently on vacation. (Yay WordPress magic that allows me to schedule posts for the future!). This will be my last post for the week.  See you soon!

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