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IGTOA Awards $150,000 in Grants to Support Galapagos Conservation

Date: April 17, 2020

IGTOA is pleased to announce that it has awarded $150,080 in Galapagos Traveler Conservation Fund grants to seven different recipients in 2020.

Since 1997, IGTOA has awarded over $1 million in grants to organizations working on the front lines of Galapagos science, education, and conservation. The GTCF is funded by IGTOA’s member companies and through donations from their guests. 

Congratulations to our 2020 GTCF grant recipients: 

Ecology Project International: Empowering Youth Conservation Leaders in Galapagos, $60,000

The future of the Galapagos Islands ultimately lies in the hands of the people who live there, yet there is a fundamental disconnect between many Galapagos residents and the remarkable natural environment they inhabit. Fewer than 40% of Galapagos residents were born in the islands and a majority of residents have not had the opportunity to visit the national park. Furthermore, students in the Galapagos have traditionally lacked access to outdoor learning opportunities; education in Galapagos follows a traditional, classroom-based model, which fails to provide access to the spectacular, natural laboratory of Galapagos. We at IGTOA firmly believe that the most important thing that we can do to support Galapagos conservation in the long run is to help empower young people to become engaged and informed stewards of their own natural heritage.

This is why we are proud to once again support the work of Ecology Project International (EPI), whose programs engage students in applied conservation programs that include field research and giant tortoise habitat restoration in partnership with the Galapagos National Park. In 2018, 170 Galapagos students will have the opportunity to participate in EPI’s programs. Since 2003, more than 1,700 students have participated in EPI’s programs.  

Island Conservation: Community Campaign for the Restoration Floreana’s Biodiversity Heritage, $25,000

Floreana Island is a globally important threatened biodiversity hotspot, hosting 55 IUCN Red‐Listed species (10 Critically Endangered, 18 Endangered and 27 Vulnerable species). Floreana hosts the world’s largest Galapagos petrel breeding colony, and 11 other nesting seabird species. However, the island’s rich biodiversity has been adversely impacted by the introduction of invasive rodents and feral cats that have significantly degraded native habitat and contributed to the highest levels of species loss in the archipelago. To restore Floreana Island, project partners are working towards the removal of invasive rodents and feral cats and to ultimately repatriate the island's  extirpated species, including the Floreana mockingbird and Floreana giant tortoise.

IGTOA's grant will be used to help with the development of a regulation for responsible pet ownership for San Cristobal municipality, including Floreana. The new regulation will require cats to be sterilized, microchipped and registered and it will make it illegal to own certain species, such as goats and rabbits. Funds will also be used for the design of a new dock, which will improve the biosecurity of Floreana by allowing for the inspection of passengers and cargo upon arrival. The dock will also make it easier and more efficient and cost effective to deliver bait and other cargo necessary to facilitate the removal of invasive species. 

The Charles Darwin Foundation: Green Sea Turtle Research and Conservation, $25,000

Green turtle populations are decreasing around the world due to threats from human activities, including the harvesing of eggs as well as adults and juveniles from nesting and feeding sites, and incidental intake in fisheries. Despite the protection in the Galapagos Marine Reserve from many of these threats, tourism activities still pose a risk to sea turtles that nest or feed in these waters. Boat travel and fishing are allowed at many sites where sea turtles forage, bask and nest, increasing disturbance of sea turtles and nests and a high incidence of boat strikes in Galapagos has been reported, with injuries from boat strikes observed in more than 19% of sea turtles at some feeding areas close to ports (Denkinger, et al., 2013) and in 12% of the females in the main nesting beach of the archipelago (Quinta Playa, Isabela Island). 

The aim of this project is to quantify the threats of boat strikes and anthropogenic noise to sea turtles in order to inform management plans for effective sea turtle conservation in the Galapagos Marine Protected Area. Working with key stakeholders and with the Galapagos National Park, the CDF aims to develop a strategy to reduce the impacts on marine turtles that is compatible with the growing tourist industry. 

Galapagos Guides Association: Municipal Library in Puerto Ayora, $18,000

In many communities, public libraries are the only place where any person, regardless of education or skill level, can have free access to both general and specialized knowledge. Public libraries support long-life education, and create spaces for cultural activities and events. 

In 2005, AGIPA secured a non-refundable loan of $ 89.896,00 from the Embassy of Japan in Ecuador, for the construction of the building of a Public Library in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island. thus thus established the first public library in the Galapagos Islands in alliance with the Municipality of Santa Cruz. The Municipality of Santa Cruz, in charge of running the Library,  hired a professional librarian and, for a while, was able to cover the administrative costs, such as water, electricity, and the salary of the Librarian, while AGIPA continued to secure donations of more than 10,000 books, equipment and furniture.

For the past three years, the library was underutilized, and needed critical support to move towards a new vision to contribute effectively to the local community and the conservation of the islands. In 2018, AGIPA, decided to take the challenge and become the official administrator of the Library. The Library required a major overhaul to restore the building inside and outside, recover lost books, furniture and equipment, obtained internet service and hire a professional librarian, to re-open the library for the community.

The Scalesia Foundation: Education for Sustainability in Classrooms, $12,500

The Scalesia Foundation (SF), a local NGO funded by a group of local leaders 25 years ago. It is the only institution working exclusively to strengthen formal education in the Galapagos Islands. SF believes the quality and nature of local education are among the most important factors determining the future of the Galapagos Islands. Whether Galapagos remains the world’s most environmentally intact oceanic archipelago or not depends in large part on how well Galapagos youths are educated to understand and assume their pivotal role in shaping a sustainable society in the Islands. There are more than 7000 students on the Islands and more than 450 teachers in public and private schools. This last group is now receiving direct training from Scalesia Foundation in a joint venture with Galapagos Conservancy and the Ministry of Education to ensure they have tools to ensure that sustainability is engrained in the cosmovision of future citizens. The name of this program is Education for Sustainability in Galapagos. This program includes two workshops each year for all of the teacher in the Galapagos Islands in the core subjects of (Math, Science, Social Sciences, Language Arts, and English). Besides training, teachers receive coaching and year round follow up to ensure that the information received in the trainings is transformed in quality planning and classroom execution. This is a long term program made possible by private/public joint venture with the multi institutional cooperation of Scalesia Foundation, Galapagos Conservancy, and the Ministry of Education of Ecuador. 

This project depends on qualified educators with enough experience to become teacher-trainers for all the local teachers. One of the biggest challenges is to find funding for the services provided by these professionals; and to make sure the salaries are competitive and attractive. IGTOA's grant will be used to cover part of the salaries of teachers, that have a dual role of been trainers of other teachers in the public school system and will be working at the professional development program for all the Galapagos educators.

Frente Insular of the Galapagos Marine Reserve: Community Action and Engagement, $5,000

Through its #GalapagosMiResponsabilidad program, Frente Insular of the Galápagos Marine Reserve is facilitating community engagement in the challenges facing the Galapagos Islands and helping to support positive grassroots mobilization to confront these challenges. Frente Insular produces its own radio program and social media to educate and connect with community members on important topics and to encourage action. It also provides talks and educational opportunities for students and local teachers and organizes coastal clean ups and other programs designed to change behaviors, such as encouraging Galapagos residents to give up single use plastics.  To date, the organization has facilitated more than 165 events and actions related to plastic pollution and has participated in environmental awareness and education campaigns. All activities are coordinated with local entities and authorities and are open to all members of the local community, including visitors.

IGTOA's funds will be used to cover legal fees so that Frente Insular can register as a charity in Ecuador, which will allow the organization too gain access to other funding streams and to sponsor community coastal cleanup events. 

Galapagos Conservation Trust: Connecting with Nature Program, $4,580

Urbanization and human activity are key threats to Galapagos’ native wildlife. Over 30,000 people now live on the Islands, and around 40% are under the age of 15 years. Research has demonstrated that people who connect with nature when they are children develop stronger conservation and sustainability values, and are more prone to protect nature when they grow up. Galapagos’ youth is therefore an important audience for building a culture of sustainable living and environmental awareness. However, most families live in towns and the Galapagos National Park (GNP) is not easily accessible for young people from urban zones due to both physical and financial constraints.  To ensure young people experience the uniqueness of their local wildlife and feel inspired to protect it, GCT has developed our Connecting with Nature programme, which aims to provide quality extra-curricular environmental education opportunities, and support teachers and their classes with engaging outreach sessions in the field. GCT’s Santa Cruz-based Outreach Coordinator, Anne Guezou, is crucial for delivery of these activities. Anne is a botanist by training but also has a wealth of education and environmental education experience. She supports local schools, students, Ecology Project International (EPI), and the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park (DGNP) by delivering engaging and exciting outreach sessions, including on topics such as plastic pollution, giant tortoise conservation and botany. Anne has an excellent reputation in her network and is regularly called on to develop and deliver new activities.

IGTOA funds will be used to directly support Anne’s time and expenses related to her delivery of education and outreach activities in the Galapagos Islands. 

Matt Kareus

Matt is the Executive Director of IGTOA.


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