About the Galapagos Islands
The history of man's detrimental effects on the islands extends back to the 1600s when buccaneers introduced the first goats and killed tortoises for food. Once settlers came to the islands they brought with them a full range of domestic animals, some of which went wild and started feral populations; Dogs, cats, pigs, goats, rats, the little fire ant, guava plants, and the cinchona (quinine) tree. Introduced plants have spread, particularly in the moist highlands, and compete with native vegetation. Several species are considered to be serious threats to native vegetation.
The social and environmental pressures made by the fast growing population of the Galapagos's inhabited areas cause worry to the national and international communities. Between 1982 and 1990 the population growth rate in Galapagos reached 6% mostly due to immigration from the Ecuadorian mainland. During 1996 a step forward in this area was the introduction of an amendment to the Constitution of Ecuador, which states that Galapagos will have a special law. Hence, it is possible to restrict indiscriminate migration, commerce and property rights in Galapagos. Two organizations work together for the conservation of the islands: the Galapagos National Park (GNP), that tries to keep the natural resources of the Islands in the best state of conservation possible and the Charles Darwin Research Station, which conducts and facilitates research in the Galapagos Islands.
The Ecuadorian government declared the Galapagos Islands a National Park on July 4, 1959. Simultaneously in Belgium, the Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos was formed and marked the centennial celebration of the publication of Darwin's Origin of the Species. That same year Ecuador designated 97% of the total land area of the archipelago as Galapagos National Park that shoulders the responsibilities of wildlife conservation projects including the protection of endangered populations, the eradication and control of introduced species, and the management of recreation and tourism. For information please visit the Darwin Foundation web site at http://www.darwinfoundation.org
The Charles Darwin Station for scientific investigation was built on Santa Cruz Island, and was inaugurated on January 20, 1964. Today, the Charles Darwin Research Station, an international non-profit organization, acts as the scientific arm of the Park Service. Scientists at the Station conduct conservation based research and also train naturalist tour guides.
Later in 1968, the National Park Service for the Galapagos was initiated and today on the island, groups of no more than 20 visitors are led by a certified naturalist. This policy is intended to reduce the impact on the fragile ecosystem while providing a sense of solitude and privacy on the islands.
Big Five Tours & Expeditions, the parent company of Galapagos.com, is very proud to announce our first initiative to help save the endangered eco system in the Galapagos Islands through the Fundación Galapagos. In collaboration with our partners at Metropolitan Touring, we are partially funding a much-needed waste recycling facility on the island of Santa Cruz in the Galapagos. Through the Spirit of Big Five Foundation, Big Five is one of the only Platinum Sponsors for this facility. For information please visit the Fundación Galapagos website at www.fundaciongalapagos.com.