The Galapagos National Park celebrated in 60th anniversary on July 4th, marking six decades of service working towards protecting the islands through a well-thought-out plan of conservation in tandem with the Charles Darwin Foundation.
The Galapagos National Park was established in 1959 after international attention from scientists across the globe, including the California Academy of Science, recognized the importance of the islands more than a century after Charles Darwin visited.
Since its beginning, the mission of the park has been to “provide the knowledge and support to ensure the conservation of the environment and biodiversity of the archipelago of Galapagos, through scientific research and complementary actions”. After it was created, 97% of the land of the Galapagos became protected areas, safeguarding over 200 islands and islets under the park’s care.
Today the GNP’s reach is widespread. For those visiting the islands, there are visitor centers on Santa Cruz and San Cristobal that have inclusive information about the human, natural, and wildlife history of the islands. Working closely with the Charles Darwin Foundation, the park enacts programs based on scientific research that takes conservation challenges to task-repopulating tortoises and land iguanas on islands where they have gone extinct, managing invasive species that threaten the native plants and animals, and regulating the who, what, and where of visitor sites.
The Galapagos National Park also works closely with international and private organizations whose interests help protect the islands. The Whale Shark Project, the World Wildlife Foundation, the Galapagos Conservancy, and the park have been instrumental in helping to preserve the islands.
The Fausto Llerena Breeding Center on Santa Cruz shows the results of one of the GNP’s early initiatives. In 1965 after giant tortoise populations in the islands were identified as being under threat, the park and the Charles Darwin Foundation started a captive breeding program to protect the tortoises from further harm. To date, the center has helped to repopulate tortoise populations on islands including Santa Fe, Pinta, and Floreana.
As a result of the work of the Galapagos National Park and its collaborators, 95% of the native flora and fauna remains in the islands. This is an achievement considering the threats the Galapagos face, and the ongoing work of all involved gives way to further efforts that keep the tide at bay.
More than 300 park rangers help in the efforts. Their duties are multifaceted in a variety of fields including tending to penguins, cormorants, albatrosses and land iguanas; clearing invasive species in the islands, tending to turtle nesting sites, and assisting with giant tortoise projects.
Other recent projects of the Galapagos National Park include reducing plastics in the islands. Through education, an aggressive stance on banning materials like the plastic straw, and efforts to clean up both the land and sea of destructive materials for the creatures of the islands, the archipelago is now becoming a better place for all involved.