IGTOA: Conservation and Nature Tourism

IE is an active member of the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association (IGTOA), an organization established to help monitor the delicate balance between nature tourism and Galapagos Islands conservation. Ecotourism efforts in place during our tours include using marked trails, avoiding close contact with animals, and taking care not to remove or transport plants or other organic matter. Regulations have been established to protect the native flora and fauna of these islands, and visitors allowed to wander unrestricted could cause irreparable damage to this fragile ecosystem. Observing these important guidelines during our Galapagos Island expeditions will ensure the healthy survival of the Islands for future generations.

The Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands

This association was founded under the auspices of UNESCO for the purpose of furthering appropriate scientific studies. This is accomplished through the establishment of the Charles Darwin Research Station at Santa Cruz Island with the support of the Government of Ecuador. It was dedicated in 1964. The aim of the station is to provide facilities for the study of the islands and to advise the National Park Service on steps to be taken for their conservation. Facilities are provided for scientists to work at their own projects. The projects must be authorized by the Foundation as well as by the Government of Ecuador National Park Administration. All scientific work on the islands is planned so as not to interfere unduly with the wildlife and no field research is permitted which could do serious harm to any element of the indigenous fauna or flora.

The next two categories of function with which the Research Station occupies itself concern conservation. It is arguable which is the most important, but the one project with which the station identifies itself concerns the Galapagos giant tortoise in its numerous island races. It is thought that here is selection being applied by nature and, in spite of the dominant role being played by man by his application of a very heavy selection pressure, as far as possible the latter is held in check. Even though the tortoises of several islands were near extinction, due to man's influence directly or through the agency of feral species of his once domesticated ones, the visitor to the station is first conducted to a tortoisarium where tortoises from the different islands are reared to the stage where they can be reintroduced to their original habitat, at least in those subspecies where they are most in danger.

The National Park Service

The Ecuadorian Government established a National Park Service, operated by Ecuadorians, to run the Galapagos National Park. With headquarters in Academy Bay, on Santa Cruz, they have already taken over various programs, such as goat eradication and tortoise protection in the wild, from the Darwin Station. There is an entry tax, included in cost of your tour.

The main difficulty is the problem of enforcing the laws and regulations, and to this end the Park Service needs the help and cooperation of all visitors whose aim should be the same as theirs — to preserve and conserve the Galapagos and their unique ecology for posterity. Though some of their regulations and arrangements may not seem perfect to the visitor, be assured that they have the islands and future visitors at heart.

No natural object may be removed from the islands and visitors are encouraged to pick up any litter they may see. All groups must be accompanied by a qualified guide. Please make every effort to make his job easier by following his directions and instructions. Leave only foot prints, take only photographs.