The Galapagos Islands is home to one of the most unique ecosystems on Earth. This "living laboratory" off the coast of Ecuador continues to play a valuable role in our studies of global ecology, to shape and challenge everything we know about natural science.
Clue in to Conservation
A Galapagos wildlife cruise affords access to a truly unique destination, and ecotourism plays an important role in raising awareness of the conservation issues faced by the islands. Anyone who plans to embark on a Galapagos wildlife cruise should also be familiar with the dedicated organisations that work tirelessly towards maintaining the integrity of this remote and beautiful environment.
The Galapagos Conservation Trust (GCT) is the only UK-based charity organisation entirely dedicated to raising money to fund a host of initiatives focused on the preservation of the biodiversity of the archipelago.
History and Mission of the GCT
The GCT was established in 1995 and continues to work with a wide range of programmes by identifying crucial issues and facilitating funding to bring their solutions to fruition. By managing multiple programmes concurrently, they are able to throw a wide net over the conservation of the wildlife and habitats of the archipelago, to be effective on a holistic scale.
Working with partners in both the UK, the region itself and mainland Ecuador, the GCT's objective is simple: "It is our mission to keep this as one of the best conserved tropical archipelagos in the world and to communicate the lessons we can learn from this special place to a wider audience."
By becoming involved in projects as diverse as research, recycling and regeneration of ecosystems, the organisation is living up to its mission statement in a variety of ways.
•Education: For lasting change to occur it needs to be instilled through the education of the ambassadors of the future. By engaging young learners in initiatives at both a local and international level, the trust is helping to train younger generations to become passionate "stewards" of the environment.
•Conservation of endemic species: The organisation prioritises the protection of the region's unique endemic species through its work with local conservation initiatives. Animals like the marine iguanas, Giant Tortoises, penguins and Darwin’s Finches cannot be found anywhere else on the planet, and their preservation is of the utmost urgency.
•Control of invasive species: The GCT is helping to protect the biodiversity of the archipelago against the threats of invasive species by funding projects with a focus on reducing their effect.
•Marine conservation: The trust works closely with the conservancy of the UNESCO-listed Marine Reserve, in order to ensure a sustainable future for a host of endangered species in one of the largest protected marine areas of the world.
•Sustainable development: With the archipelago's human population growing and an increasing number of visitors, it is imperative that conservation comes from a community level. The trust supports programmes that promote sustainable environmental practices in waste management, agriculture and ecotourism.
Support this Unique Environment on a Galapagos Wildlife Cruise
While there are several pioneering organisations dedicated to protecting the biodiversity of the islands, it is every visitor's responsibility. By travelling with a reputable operator and abiding by the rules of the National Park, everyone can play a part in preserving this fascinating part of the planet for future generations to enjoy.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in the Galapagos Islands. For those interested in a Galapagos wildlife cruise, Marissa recommends the itineraries organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of species in one of the most spectacular regions on Earth.