Galapagos: managing tourism in (7/7)

Galapagos: managing tourism in  (7/7)

When Charles Darwin landed on the
Galapagos Islands in 1835, they were barely inhabited. But, today, things are very different. Over the last quarter century, the
permanent population has grown rapidly, from 5,000 in 1980
to over 25,000 today. This has caused problems for the
national parks service, who want to preserve the unique
character of the islands. Increasing population size is a problem,
for example, here in Santa Cruz, in Puerto Ayora, where we are now,
there’s no more space. The last areas were given away already to immigrants during the last four
or five months, so, people are living already at the
borderline of the park. In addition to the local population, over 150,000 tourists visit the
Galapagos every year, and the numbers keep on growing. Tourism on the Galapagos is tightly
controlled by the parks service. Some islands are totally closed off. Wardens supervise visitors at all times
within the park zone, but there’s such interest in these islands
that the tourists keep on coming. I think Galapagos should be important
as a tourist area, because one of the major purposes of
protection in Galapagos is for conservation and for education. And it’s very difficult for people to
understand the problems that occur in Galapagos in a protected
area such as this if they can’t actually come here
and see it with their own eyes. The problem from tourism isn’t so much the tourist interaction with
the organisms, what is more of a concern is all the
people that tourism, as an ancillary activity,
bring to the islands. And that is a concern
because the islands cannot support large numbers of people. So far, the parks service
and its supporters have managed to keep the
big hotel chains and the huge cruise ships at bay,
but the competing pressures of maintaining the islands unique
heritage and, simultaneously, allowing the local population to develop
economically, will always require delicate handling. Life on the Galapagos can be difficult
but, nevertheless, scientists and conservationists regard it
as a privilege to work there. There are plenty of problems and plenty
of difficult situations and plenty of frustrations,
but there are also plenty of rewards and success and things you can say,
“well, I helped to do this.” I mean, I am getting an ulcer
and things like that, I’m getting sick sometimes, because of
the problems, but, well, that’s part of the job. I mean, I prefer to be here instead of
sitting at a desk in the main office. Number one here is conservation. Number one here, is this continuing to
be not a museum and not a herbarium, it’s a living laboratory of evolution. In the decade since Darwin’s visit,
the fame of the Galapagos has spread around the world. Much more is known about its
natural history but there’s still much more work
to be done. Darwin’s comment still holds true, it
really is a remarkable and curious place.

2 thoughts on “Galapagos: managing tourism in (7/7)

  1. I checked on the tourist numbers and they had increased four and half times since I had visited in the early 90s. Wow! But I had always wanted to see it since I was 7.

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