Charles Darwin Foundation and WildAid Beneficiaries of 2012 IGTOA Traveler Funding Program

Two non-profit organizations in the Galapagos Islands learned this month that they will get a financial boost from the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association (IGTOA). The Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) and WildAid will receive a combined total of $63,000 from the 2012 IGTOA Traveler Funding Program, which generates revenue for conservation and professional standards development programs in the Galapagos Islands through the support of its member companies and their travelers.

The Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF), which has been operating in the Galapagos since 1959, was created to provide scientific information to the Ecuadorian Government to safeguard the Galapagos environment and biodiversity. 

CDF will receive a total of $28,000. IGTOA members allocated $10,000 to the station for general operating support — to help it improve its physical and staffing infrastructure in order to meet the islands’ present and future challenges. Another $18,000 was awarded towards its interpretive services program which enables young Ecuadorians and Galapagos residents to gain experience in tourism and public relations.

Says Swen Lorenz, executive director of the CDF, “We are very grateful for the exciting news that we are again to receive support from the Traveler Funding Program. The CDF, through its unique agreement with the government of Ecuador to provide technical advice to Galapagos stakeholders and especially to the Galapagos National Park Service, is at the forefront of science for the protection and conservation of both terrestrial and marine ecosystems. CDF staff (the majority of whom are Galapagos natives) — together with many international, Ecuadorian, and Galapagos volunteers — work tirelessly to bring the highest standard of research and technical assistance to Galapagos decision-makers. IGTOA’s recognition that the behind-the scenes staff and activities are crucial to optimum operation is reflected in the gift toward general operating support.” 

Together, the Galapagos National Park Service’s giant tortoise captive breeding center and the Charles Darwin Foundation’s Research Station, on Santa Cruz Island have become an important visitor site for cruise- and land-based tourists. The importance of nature-based tourism, with companies and boat owners who are aware of the need to balance Galapagos’ conservation needs and sustainability with their own financial sustainability, has never been more crucial. Says Lorenz, “In 2012, CDF is very pleased to continue partnering with IGTOA in providing for our visitor services team. Our goal is for visitors to the station to receive personal attention to make their visits as pleasant and informative as possible. We look forward to continuing our collaboration and to working together with IGTOA to protect and conserve the natural biodiversity of the Galapagos Archipelago.” 

WildAid, an organization whose mission is to end illegal wildlife trade by reducing demand through public awareness campaigns and providing comprehensive marine protection, will receive $25,000 in funds, which will go toward supporting a preventive quarantine initiative in the Galapagos Islands supply chain. The program will endeavor to design internationally accepted biosecurity protocols at the embarkation port in Guayaquil. The monies from IGTOA will specifically be used to help in procuring a biosecurity expert and help pay for biosecurity equipment costs.

Marcel Bigue, executive director of WildAid Galapagos, says “IGTOA has provided critical funding to a variety of initiatives in Galapagos ranging from the establishment of the Cecilia Alvear Women's Organization's boutique in San Cristobal to conservation education and outreach in Puerto Ayora primary schools to directly helping the park service stop illegal fishing in the Galapagos Marine Reserve. We have come to count on IGTOA and the thousands of dedicated tourists to help us in our efforts to protect this truly unique ecosystem. In 2012, funds will be used to help stop invasive species from reaching the islands by setting up quarantine procedures and improving cargo-loading standards on the continent and at key Galapagos ports. With your help we can continue to protect these fabled Islands for generations to come.”  

IGTOA member companies voted to approve the requests in December. Companies that participate in the Traveler Funding Program encourage their travelers to make a donation to the fund by providing them with information and educational materials about the challenges facing the Galapagos Islands. Since the program’s inception in 2003, it has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to support a variety of conservation projects in the Galapagos, including a cleanup of Academy Bay, in which local fishermen netted more than eight thousand pounds of waste; acquisition of a GPS system and video equipment for Galapagos National Park rangers, to be used when they patrol the islands for illegal fishing activity; and a project to neuter stray dogs and cats to prevent their further spread on the islands. A list of companies that participate in the program can be found here.

For more information on IGTOA's Traveler Funding Program, please contact Matt Kareus at

Featured Image: Inadequate biosecurity at Galapagos ports poses a serious threat to the ecological integrity of the islands. ©WildAid.

Candice Gaukel Andrews

A multiple award-winning author and writer specializing in nature-travel topics and environmental issues, Candice has traveled around the world, from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica, and from New Zealand to Scotland's far northern, remote regions. Her assignments have been equally diverse, from covering Alaska’s Yukon Quest dogsled race to writing a history of the Galapagos Islands to describing and photographing the national snow-sculpting competition in her home state of Wisconsin. In addition to being a five-time book author, Candice's work has also appeared in several national and international publications, such as The Huffington Post and Outside Magazine Online. To read her web columns and see samples of her nature photography, visit her website at and like her Nature Traveler Facebook page at

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