Galapagos off UNESCO Danger List

The Galapagos Islands, just off the coast of Ecuador, are a chain of volcanic islands referred to as an archipelago. Tourists flock to the islands to catch a glimpse of the endemic species and rare wildlife that inspired Charles Darwin and have captivated generations for centuries. But it is also the presence of the current population and the endless number of tourists that have put the Galapagos Islands at risk, and saw to it that they were added to the UNESCO danger list of world heritage sites in 2007. But innovative efforts by the Ecuadorian government has brought change and hope to this breathtaking natural wonder.

With a permanent population of locals living on the islands, many concerns in regard to conservation came to the forefront. Humans brought a variety of species to the islands, such as cattle, insects, fire ants and rats, which caused disruptions in the balance of the fragile ecosystems. To conserve the islands and the wildlife that make them as unique and breathtaking as they are, the government stepped in with progressive projects and hard work to restore balance and beauty to the islands. Trapping the invasive species and deporting them back to the mainland has been a priority, and teams of workers have been strict on imports. Trying to keep down housing developments and the rubbish dumps that humans bring with them has been the greatest challenge to date.

The islands were listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. At a recent meeting it was voted that the Galapagos be removed from the danger list. It was a very controversial decision, as some members believe that the situation in Galapagos remains critical, and fear that the removal from the list will encourage conservation efforts to deteriorate. Others are of the opinion that the Ecuadorian government deserve recognition for their efforts, and to reward them for their work, the removal off the danger list is appropriate.

Head of the Galapagos Conservancy, Johannah Barry, echoed the concerns by saying: “The growing human presence in Galápagos, both through tourism and residents, has put biodiversity at risk. Introduction of disease, alien and invasive plants and animals are all factors which must be addressed immediately and aggressively. I believe the decision is premature and I hope it does not signal a relaxation of vigilant management and conservation efforts.”