The National Park of Galapagos
The Galapagos National Park was organized as a part of the Ecuadorian Forestry Service. The Galapagos then became the first National Park of Ecuador. By 1968 the Galapagos National Park Service had established its presence in the island and started its work. Their installations were built on premises beside those of the Charles Darwin Station in Santa Cruz Island. Work was started, in coordination with the Park.
Thus the total administration of the Park itself is the exclusive responsibility of National Park Service, and includes the polices and rules for conservation and their management.
As part of its duties, the national Park Service also undertakes many of the conservation projects, such as programs to eradicate introduced animals, the control of tourism, and environmental education.
In 1974 the Master Plan for the management of the National Park was published. This plan determined fundamental principles
of the conservation policy: The activities of the local population were regulated, the boundaries of the inhabited zone were clearly
established, distinguishing them from the national Park areas which became about 90% of the entire surface of the archipelago: The
visitorís areas were classified into Extensive use ( maximum 90 person at a time ) ; areas of Intensive use (maximum of 12 person ) and
Reserve Areas ( closed to visitors).
Tourism was also regulated and limitation of the number of visitors per year was proposed in order to control tourism and to minimize the potential negative impact which frequent visits could cause to the colonies of nesting birds and places which big concentrations of fauna. Rules of conduct for visitors to the National Park were published and the observance of these rules was made compulsory to all visitors.
In general, all these measures were proposed, implemented and imposed. with one main target in mind: the preservation of the unique natural habitat of the Galapagos in all its forms.
As important phase the National Parkís work is the control and eradication of introduced species which have caused server
damage to ecology of the islands. They use the native flora and fauna for entire system as they become predators or competitors which can easily upset the existing ecological balance.
Several programs to eliminate these animals are conducted by the National Park and in certain cases, satisfactory results have already been obtained, for example the complete eradication of wild goats from Santa Fe and Espanola, and their considerable reduction in other islands. Nevertheless, the task is not easy; on the contrary, it requires much time, great effort and very high costs.
Support for the National Park from the Government and from interested person and institutions is absolutely vital the survival of the islands.
The most common examples of introduced animals are
- goats on San Salvador, Santa Cruz and Floreana, Isabela and Cristobal;
- the wild pigs, ( San Salvador, Santa Cruz and Floreana are among the most affected )
- and the black rat - on almost all the island - except Genovesa, Fernandina and the two northernmost . There are no reports of introduced animals on any of the four latter islands but, the population of black rats in Pinzon is immense.
The goats devastate the vegetation and compete with the native animals for food supplies.
The wild pigs and rats attack the tortoises, birds and eggs. Packs of wild dogs roam through several parts of Santa Cruz , Floreana and specially the south of Isabela, feeding on land and marine iguanas.
In addition, the presence of introduced red fire ant plus other insects and plants introduced by man in the last three centuries,
prove devastating effect which the arrival of humans has represented to the islandís natural ecosystem.
But there is no time to be wasted in regrets. It is time for action and it is here that the efforts of the Galapagos National Park are concentrated. Their hard work, frequently misunderstood , but undertaken with extraordinary professionalism together with the work of the Charles Darwin Station has one aim to save the natural environment of the Galapagos Islands and with the support of the Ecuadorian Government and the cooperation of the islandsí population to protect and preserve them forever.