Who Let the (Galapagos) Dogs Out?!
For those of us lucky enough to travel to the Galapagos Islands – one of the most magical places on Earth – one thing that we inevitably come to understand is the importance of conservation in protecting the incredible wildlife that calls this world famous archipelago home. Unfortunately, the very fabric of life in the Galapagos continues to face unprecedented threats.
Historically, the main direct assault against individual wildlife species was from hunting, in particular, related to the once abundant giant Galápagos tortoises which Charles Darwin was so fortunate to witness during his visit. During the 19th and 20th centuries, for example, well over 100,000 tortoises were hunted for oil and meat, particularly for long seafaring voyages.
Today, the greatest threats to life throughout the islands are from human encroachment and habitat loss from agricultural expansion, as well as a more general attack on entire ecosystems continues from introduced plants and animals. In fact, while issues such as climate change likely pose the greatest long term threat to the Galapagos Islands, in the short term, scientists agree that the greatest threat to biodiversity in the Galápagos Islands is the introduction of invasive species. And all of this is related to the explosive growth of tourism.
The good news is that tourism done correctly can also be a significant tool for conservation and sustainability in the islands. Leading tour operators, such as Natural Habitat Adventures (NHA), provide critical support to some of these efforts through membership and contributions to the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association (IGTOA).
This year, for example, IGTOA and its member companies were proud to contribute $80,000 to four organizations working on the front lines of Galapagos conservation. WildAid was one of these recipients. They received a $25,000 grant to train a K-9 sniffer dog unit and its handlers and build kennels to house the unit on Santa Cruz. The dogs will be stationed at ports of entry and will help detect invasive species.
As explained here, “WildAid is now working with the Galapagos Biosecurity Agency (ABG) to reduce the ability of invasive species to reach the islands, including the creation of awareness among locals and tourists on doing their part to prevent the introduction of invasive species. IGTOA’s funds will help the ABG implement a K9 sniffer dog unit consisting of four dogs to improve detection of illegal goods.”
In addition to offering some of the most amazing Galapagos Islands Adventures, Natural Habitat Adventures directly contributes to these critical conservation efforts through IGTOA, while also being the exclusive tour operator partner of World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Through NHA’s partnership with WWF, it further supports the world’s leading conservation efforts in the Galapagos Islands and beyond globally.