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 user 2007-04-12 at 3:44:00 pm Views: 59
  • #17739

    Galapagos Islands ‘facing crisis’

    Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has declared the
    Galapagos Islands, home to dozens of endangered species, at risk and a national
    priority for action.

    The islands, Ecuador’s top tourist draw, were suffering an environmental and
    social crisis, he said. Mr Correa’s call came as a UN delegation was visiting
    to see if the islands should be declared “in danger”. The Galapagos
    Islands were made a World Heritage Site 30 years ago for their unique plant and
    animal life. “We are pushing for a series of actions to overcome the huge
    institutional, environmental and social crises in the islands,” Mr Correa
    said, adding that these problems were the result of years of neglect by
    previous governments. He did not detail the measures, but indicated Ecuador
    would consider suspending some tourism permits, Reuters news agency reported.


    The islands, located some 1,000km (620 miles) off Ecuador’s mainland, are home
    to an array of species, including giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies and
    marine iguanas. About 20,000 people, working mainly in fishing and tourism,
    also live there. The Galapagos Islands inspired naturalist Charles Darwin and
    helped him develop his theory of evolution. Last month, several rangers of the
    ecological reserve in the islands clashed with members of the Ecuadorean Armed
    Forces over what the rangers say was illegal fishing in protected waters. The
    incident provoked an outcry in Ecuador as it illustrated for many the practices
    which are damaging the site. Mr Correa announced that a number of military
    officials had been suspended pending an investigation. However, ecologists say
    the problems in the Galapagos run much deeper than the government has acknowledged.
    They fear that a rapid increase in the human population and the gradual
    introduction of external species of flora and fauna are threatening the entire
    ecosystem on the islands. Representatives of the UN’s scientific, educational
    and cultural body, Unesco, have travelled to its research station on the
    Galapagos to inspect the state of conservation there. Last month, a senior
    Unesco official warned of threats to the “fragile and delicate”
    ecology of the Galapagos.