Galapagos National Park

Entrance of the Galapagos national park

Galapagos National Park

It was created under executive order N-17, of July 4, 1959, to commemorate the first centenary of the publication of the book “The Origin of the Species” of Charles Darwin, who inspired his famous theory of evolution by natural selection in base to the observations made during their stays in these Ecuadorian islands.

The executive decree considered the high ecological value of this archipelago, so it is declared National Park, to 97% of the land surface, becoming also the first protected area of ​​the country. This standard declared “national reserve parks of exclusive domain of the State, for the preservation of the flora and fauna, the lands that form the islands of the archipelago of Columbus or Galapagos, excepting of these zones of reserve the lands possessed to date by the Settlers of the archipelago and those that would have already been legally by the State “.

The Galapagos National Park covers approximately 7,970 square kilometers, which corresponds only to its terrestrial part.
The natural beauty of the islands, the diversity and singularity of the species it hosts, its volcanic origin, its geological dynamics with permanent changes and variety of formations; Being considered a living laboratory of evolutionary processes still in progress, added to that it gave space for the development of a great number of animal and vegetal species that do not exist anywhere else in the world, make the Galapagos in a very unique place and Of global importance for the common heritage of humanity. In Galapagos, only 5 islands have some type of human settlement, which are usually the largest in the archipelago and have natural resources that support the life and development of the communities it hosts.

Santa Cruz, is the most central island of the archipelago; This proximity to the other populated islands is what may have favored their productive development, trade and transportation. San Cristóbal is the capital of the insular province and concentrates the majority of governmental dependencies. Isabela is the largest island in the archipelago and one of the most diverse. Its population is relatively small but in the last years has developed to a large extent ecotourism with local participation. Floreana, in spite of being the first inhabited island of Galápagos, counts on a small population that does not surpass the 120 inhabitants. And Baltra, an arid island that received during World War II an American air base. At present, this island belongs to the National System of Protected Areas, except a small part that is destined for the operation of the Galápagos air base and the port captaincy.

To improve the management of protected areas, the Management of the Galapagos National Park implemented a zoning for land use planning. This dynamic and adaptive process is an effective tool of planning and management, so that it divides the national park in function of its conservation and of its capacity to sustain certain human activities.
In this way the 330 islands, islets and rocks have been divided into:

  1. Zone of Absolute Protection, which refers to pristine or almost pristine areas, free from known impacts of human origin;
  2. Zone of Conservation and Restoration of Ecosystems, are areas that show some degree of alteration with presence or not of introduced organisms or human impacts.
  3. Zone of Reduction of Impacts, constitute the peripheral areas of the national park with a significant degree of alteration, located in the zones adjacent to the urban or agricultural areas.

The unique and endemic flora and fauna in the world, make the Galapagos Islands an exceptional place. More than 45 species of endemic birds, 42 of reptiles, 15 of mammals and 79 of fish, live in Galapagos and live harmoniously with the human being. The Galapagos Islands also have a rich variety of endemic flora, reaching 500 species among vascular plants, bryophytes and algae.

The most representative species of the Galapagos National Park are the giant tortoises, which give its name to the archipelago. Initially there were 14 species of turtles, but human predation in the 18th century by pirates and whalers led to the extinction of 3 species, and the constant eruptions of the volcano La Cumbre in Fernandina also ended with the species Of this island, naturally. The most recent extinction, which caused worldwide consternation, was that of the emblematic Solitario George, the only specimen of the species Chelonoidis abingdonii, from Pinta Island, which died from natural causes inside its corral at the Island’s Giant Turtle Breeding Center Santa Cruz, after 40 years of captivity.

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