Ecuador Appoints Woman Director of Galapagos National Park

Posted by Maia Wikler in Galapagos News 10 Jul 2016

 

Photo © Thomas Rodriguez, University of Miami

Photo © Thomas Rodriguez, University of Miami

Ecuador is making significant strides in a progressive approach toward conservation and diversity. In March, President Correa designated an additional 15,000 square miles of water surrounding the Galapagos Islands to the marine reserve. Until recently, only a meager one percent of the Islands’ surrounding waters were protected. In May, Africa Berdonces was appointed to manage the Galapagos National Park. This is no easy feat, and perhaps one of the most important environmental jobs in the world. The park, according to the New York Times includes nearly “all the land area of the volcanic island chain and thousands of square miles of the surrounding ocean.” The future of the famous park depends largely on human behavior, as incredibly diverse ecosystems and regions of impressive fish biomass could be protected or diminished by human activity.

Blue footed boobies, Sula nebouxii excisa, perched on lava rock. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.

Blue footed boobies, Sula nebouxii excisa, perched on lava rock. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.

Coinciding with recent action taken by the government to improve conservation, the government has also created tourism traffic restrictions such as a 36-room limit on hotels to manage the impact large crowds can have on the land and sea areas. One of greatest challenges to Ms. Berdonces will be the steady increase of tourism visitors. According to the Galapagos Conservancy, tourism numbers shot from 40,000 in 1990 to 224,755 in 2015. In addition to tourists, citizens from Ecuador have been making the move to the Islands to seek out profitable tourism employment opportunities.

Berdonces is in a position of great opportunity to bring light to critical continued conservation of the islands and implement creative solutions to address how to support ecotourism opportunities while enacting important regulations to remedy the impacts of increasing tourism. It seems Berdonces is well suited for the job. She has a master’s degree in environmental studies from James Cook University in Australia. Berdonces explained in an interview, “This is my passion. I studied for this. I’ve been a national park guide. I’m a dive master. I’m from a family in the tourism business. I know the business of the Galapagos from inside.”

The global community of nature and environmental science enthusiasts are celebrating recent political decisions and the appointment of Ms. Berdonces as a significant and exciting leap forward for the conservation of these islands.

This post is by our newest contributor, Maia Wikler, a Colorado College graduate with a passion for anthropology, human rights, travel and conservation. When she isn’t writing or reading, Maia loves to be active outside and planning the next adventure.

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