Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands Under Threat

Every so often UNESCO will send out representatives to the various UNESCO World Heritage Sites in order to establish if the site is being adequately protected and preserved. A recent mission to the Galapagos Islands revealed that threats were presenting themselves to this unique piece of paradise, which – if left unaddressed – would certainly result in the eventual destruction of the islands altogether.

The UNESCO mission to take stock of the current situation in the Galapagos Islands was undertaken at the invitation of the Ecuadorian government. Between the 8th and 13th of April 2007, the chairman and deputy director of the World Heritage Committee and a representative of the IUCN made their way to the Galapagos National Park and Marine Reserve to conduct the survey. Their mission revealed that several threats exist which place the continued existence of the delicate ecosystem found on the Galapagos Islands in danger. According to UNESCO these include ‘the growing encroachment of invasive species, increasing human immigration, the uncontrolled development of tourism and the failure of various institutions and agencies to deal with these threats’.

In response to these findings, a number of ambitious counter-measures have been suggested by Ecuadorian authorities who wish to keep the site on the World Heritage List. These have been welcomed by UNESCO, but the organization will still be taking further action to try and ensure the long-term conservation of the site. The results of the mission will be fully presented at the next World Heritage Convention which will take place in Christchurch, New Zealand, between 23 June and 2 July 2007. The possibility of inscribing the Galapagos Islands on the List of World Heritage in Danger will also be discussed.

When visiting the Galapagos Islands one is often completely blown away at the immense beauty that can be found here. Still, visitors should not forget that this beauty is maintained by a delicate natural balance and that any wrong actions on their part can easily upset this balance and further contribute to the destruction of the environment. Therefore, visitors should do their utmost to comply with authorities and ensure that any activities that they partake in during their stay here will not negatively affect the environment and put the Galapagos Islands under threat of extinction.