Galapagos Islands national park, Charles Darwin station and tourism
1935 -1959 - First Preservation Attempts
The year 1935, the one hundreth anniversary of Darwin's visit, was something of a turning point in Galapagos history, as the Ecuadorian government decreed parts of the islands as wildlife preserves. Four centuries of human presence had had an adverse effect on its unique fauna. Three of the 14 races of tortoises were gone forever and populations of others were vastly reduced (a single individual remains of the Pinta race). The native rice rat, one of the few indiginous Galapagos mammals (two native rat species and one bat species), was already extinct on many islands. Plants introduced on the settled islands were replacing the unique native species. Feral goats, like those released by Captain Porter, along with pigs, burros, and cattle, were defoliating some islands. Introduced rats and feral cats, dogs, and pigs ate the eggs or young of the native birds and reptiles. While nothing was done to enforce the decree, much less to reverse the damage, and while feral animals and other problems would become worse in the future, the decree represented at least a realization, and official recognition, that there was something worth preserving in the Galapagos.
Various scientific expeditions at the beginning of this century sounded the alarm of the killing of the giant tortoise and of the danger of their disappearance. The events of the incorporation of the islands to Ecuador (1832) and of the visit of Charles Darwin (1835) were the occasions when the Ecuadorian government took measures for the conservation of the animals. In 1936, the islands were declared a National Reserve with stricter regulations. Finally, in 1954, a movement was started to protect the species of the Galapagos and to found a center for scientific investigations on the islands. The Ecuadorian government declared the Galapagos Islands a National Park on July 4, 1959.
Galapagos National Park Founded
1959, precisely one hundred years after the publication of Darwin's Origin of the Species, Ecuador declared the islands its first national park, preserving whatever land that was not already settled for protection. Five years later the Charles Darwin Research Station was opened outside of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz. Working with the Nation Park Office, the station conducts research and determines courses of action to protect the islands. The Park office then implements many of these policies, constructing and marking trails for the visitor sites as well as regulating boats and visitor limitations.
1978 - Natural Heritage Site
On September 8, 1978, UNESCO declared the Galapagos a Natural Heritage Site for its scientific prestige and to support the conservation efforts of the National Park. The General Secretary visited the islands in 1984 to proclaim it himself.
1998 - Interpretation Center
On August 12, 1998, Prince Felipe of Spain arrived in the Galapagos Islands to inaugurate the Interpretation Center on San Cristobal Island. The center is mainly focused on the interaction between the human populations and the processes of the so-called "laboratory of Natural History", showing that a harmonious relationship between humans and nature is possible if undertaken in the right way. Interactive displays enhance the interpretation. The center is divided in several pavilions, each one with its own theme: geology, evolution, human history and current problems and its solutions, amongst others. Your journey and understanding of Galapagos would be incomplete if you did not visit the Interpretation Center
Tourism in the Galapagos
Tourism in the Galapagos has grown considerably in the last few decades. From the 4000 visitors in 1970, the number of tourists has grown to roughly 60,000 per year. Of course as the number of visitors increases, the impact to the preservation of the islands becomes greater.