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Conservationists join Ecuador President’s call to save Galapagos

…endemic species threatened…

Two conservation organisations have supported Ecuador’s President Correa in calling that the Galapagos Islands become a national priority for action. On the same day a delegation from UNESCO, the UN’s scientific, educational and cultural body, visited the islands, Mr Correa spoke publicly about the ‘danger’ the islands were facing. In his statement he referred to growing threats from a rapidly increasing population, and increased incidence of invasive species –many of them predators of nesting birds. To counteract this pressure, the President outlined a number of solutions including pushing for an implementation of the 1998 Special Law for Galapagos. This would mean investing in the Galapagos’ management authorities; promoting educational reform and ensuring development of sustainable tourism.Tourism visitation has grown in the Galapagos Islands from 40,000 in 1991 to over 120,000 in 2006; over this period the tourism economy has grown at a yearly rate of 14%. This rapid economic growth has been coupled with a similar rise in immigration, outstripping the capacity of management authorities of the Galapagos, say the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF).

"The consequences of this growth include an increase in invasive species, increased risk of pollution and finally the likelihood of greater pressures on high value marine resources,"said Dr Graham Watkins, CDF’s Executive Director.

“We support the President’s call to action,” said Sandra Loor, Executive Director of Aves & Conservacion (BirdLife in Ecuador).“For us to counter the immense pressure facing the Galapagos Islands, these are crucial issues that must be addressed and followed through.”

Located some 1,000km off Ecuador’s mainland the Galapagos Islands are home to a number of threatened endemic species, many of them birds including: Galapagos Petrel Pterodroma phaeopygia (Critically Endangered), Galapagos Cormorant Phalacrocorax harrisi (Endangered), Galapagos Hawk Buteo galapagoensis (Vulnerable), Galapagos Penguin Spheniscus mendiculus (Endangered), Waved Albatross Phoebastria irrorata (Vulnerable) and Floreana Mockingbird Nesomimus trifasciatus (Endangered).

In 2002, BirdLife warned that the Galapagos Islands' finches – made famous by Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection - were under threat from an introduced parasitic fly larvae – the third such case on the islands since 1997.

4th July 2014