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Decision to remove Galapagos from World Heritage In Danger list is “premature”

Date: August 28, 2010

The Galapagos Conservation Trust has expressed concern that UNESCO’s vote to remove Galapagos from the World Heritage Sites in Danger list is premature.

The Galapagos Conservation Trust’s Chief Executive Toni Darton said, “Saving Galapagos is a marathon not a sprint, and there is still a long way to go to overcome the challenges the Islands face. Whilst progress is being made I am concerned that this announcement is premature and may give the impression that the natural wonders of Galapagos are no longer threatened. This is sadly still far from the truth. It may also divert funds away from the vital conservation and sustainability programmes.

“Galapagos may no longer officially be a World Heritage Site In Danger, but its unique biodiversity is still very much at risk.” The natural beauty and biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands led to them being declared one of the first World Heritage Sites, in 1978. Their isolated location, 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, means they are home to many unique species including giant tortoises, marine iguanas and the only penguins north of the Equator.

Unfortunately, the many consequences of human intervention have had a devastating effect. The rapid increase in population and visitor numbers, growing threat from invasive species and unregulated development were just some of the reasons behind UNESCO’s decision to add Galapagos to the list of World Heritage Sites In Danger in 2007.

Since then the Ecuadorian Government has made progress in addressing a number of these issues. Immigration and quarantine measures have been tightened, a $15 million Invasive Species Fund has been set up and the governance of the Islands has been strengthened. But there is still a long way togo to ensure a sustainable future for Galapagos.

Over 40 Galapagos species are Critically Endangered - including the Floreana Mockingbird that helped inspire Darwin’s theory of evolution - and over 800 introduced plants now outnumber the 550 native and endemic species. A new housing development of over 1,000 homes is set to double the size of the main town before issues such as water, sanitation and energy shortages have been addressed, and the updated Special Law for Galapagos that will strengthen the regulatory framework is not yet in place.

Matt Kareus

Matt is the Executive Director of IGTOA.


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