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Galapagos Conservation Trust logo   Galapagos Conservation Trust:   GCT Members Area > Email bulletins > May 2006

May 2006

Is mass tourism coming to Galapagos?

My annual visit to our projects in Galapagos coincided with the controversial arrival of the MV Discovery to Galapagos. This 698 berth ship offers a Galapagos and the Americas trip and has been given permission to dock in San Cristobal for several days. On board were 392 passengers and a further 159 passengers arrived by plane the first Sunday of my trip.

I was in meetings in Santa Cruz and was unable to go to San Cristobal that day but an eye witness told me that it took an hour and a half to disembark the Discovery passengers into smaller boats and this added to the delay in getting other passengers onto their own travel boats. In her view, Galapagos was not prepared for this type of tourism and her comment was "I am not being elitist. It is just a question of appropriateness. It is like having a small B & B in the Cotswolds that sleeps 10 and trying to cram in 100".

The Galapagos Conservation Trust believes that well managed tourism, where the local population of Galapagos benefits, is an important source of income for Ecuador. In addition, by visiting the Galapagos on small boats (up to 100 passenger capacity) visitors can experience the wilderness values of Galapagos with a minimal environmental impact.

We do not believe that the trip on the MV Discovery is an appropriate way to visit the Galapagos. The biggest single threat to the native fauna and flora is posed by the introduction of non-native species. Despite inspection and quarantine procedures, a ship this size can only add to the problem. There is no way that the inspectors can check the whole ship plus all of its passengers and crew, and prevent the inadvertent introduction of, for example, plant seeds or insects. As members of the GCT will know, the introduction of non-native species is the biggest threat to the land flora and fauna of Galapagos.

I was told that all the Park staff had to be pulled away from their day to day work of protecting the Galapagos National Park and Marine Reserve, just to deal with the arrival of the ship.

We would question how much the local community will benefit from the visit of the MV Discovery. Cruise ships of this size carry all their own food and drink, and do not normally purchase supplies locally. Furthermore, the passengers are unlikely to have the time or inclination to patronise local restaurants, especially if the price of the cruise includes all meals. The only members of the local community likely to benefit are the naturalist guides and a few small boat owners based in San Cristobal.

The Galapagos Conservation Trust also believes that the passengers' experience of Galapagos will be poor. Few of the day trips available will be able to reach the most interesting visitor sites, or those with a rich diversity of wildlife.

We believe that sustainable tourism in Galapagos should be based on the use of small boats - a high value, low volume model that minimises ecological impacts and maximises the involvement of and the benefit to the local community.

For this reason the Galapagos Conservation Trust cannot support visits by MV Discovery. The Galapagos Conservation Trust will be working with our local partners to contribute to the promotion of appropriate and sustainable tourism. If you would like to help us in this work by giving a donation, please contact the GCT office on or phone 0207 629 5049.

With best wishes,
Mrs Leonor Stjepic
Executive Director


Sponsor a Booby for Father's Day

Red footed booby tie

Why not, this Father's Day (Sunday 18 June 2006), give your father a special gift that will last for decades? For a minimum donation of 30 we will send your father a special silk tie with either a Red Footed Boobies on a blue background or Blue Footed Boobies on a red background as well as a specially personalised letter confirming that a donation has been made on his behalf to help some of the unique birdlife of Galapagos.

Your funds will be used to protect species such as the Nazca Booby, Flightless Cormorant and Galapagos Penguin. These birds are found nowhere else on earth and if they die out, they will be lost forever. Currently they face threats from invasive species e.g. black and brown rats that eat their eggs and the young. Invasive species are the biggest threat to land animals in Galapagos today and we want to fund work to protect the endemic bird species of Galapagos from this threat. If you are interested in this special gift please call Catherine in the Galapagos Conservation Trust office on 0207 629 5049 or email

(The more funds we raise, the more birds we can protect - please help us by passing this onto as many of your friends as you can. Thank you).


Schools Books for Galapagos School

Children at Tomas de Berlanga School

During my trip to Galapagos, I was able to spend some time visiting the Tomas de Berlanga School. This is a school in Santa Cruz that was created and built by parents who were unhappy with the educational system in the islands. It is set up in the highlands, amongst native plants, and has about 100 children from the age of 5 to the age of 16. The classrooms are basic white washed brick with corrugated iron or are held in the open air and many of the teachers are volunteers. Although the majority of the children pay modest fees, the governers want to encourage children from all economic backgrounds to attend and about one third are scholarship students.

The parents believe it is important that the children are taught in both English and Spanish so learning English is a vital first step. I was delighted to be present when the generous donation of language books, made by Macmillans, arrived. The books were for the youngest group of children to help them learn English.

I was happy to represent Macmillans at a lovely ceremony organised by the children during which they sang two songs and one of the girls gave a speech written by the children. Afterwards a book was distributed to each child and for the rest of the time I was there, the presence of the adults was ignored as the children chatted exiciteldy about their new books and kept pointing out new words and pictures. It was fantastic to see and a big thank you to Macmillans for so generously donating all the books.

By the way, Macmillans has just published a new book on the history of Lonesome George by Henry Nicholls and I can thoroughly recommend it as a good read. If you would like to read the book, it is available at the special discounted price of 12.99 plus postage and packing to supporters of the Galapagos Conservation Trust. To receive the discount, you can order:

  1. Online - Enter the reference code WLONE05a into the promo box on the checkout page when ordering on
  2. By Email - Quote the reference code WLONE05a when you order this title by email from
  3. By phone - Quote the reference code WLONE05a when you call to order, Palgrave Macmillan Orders (+44) (0) 1256 302866.


New Chairman for the Galapagos Conservation Trust

At its AGM on 25 April 2006, the Galapagos Conservation Trust elected a new Chairman - Richard Robinson. Mr Robinson has been a Trustee of the Galapagos Conservation Trust for the last 10 years. He is a lawyer who has been involved in numerous conservation organisations, in particular with the Wildlife Trusts. Richard was one of the founders of the London Wildlife Trust, and is interested in the development of eco-tourism in other parts of the world, learning from the experience of Galapagos.

Our outgoing Chairman, Nigel Sitwell, has served as the Galapagos Conservation Trust's Chairman for most of its existence. As well as being one of the founders of the Galapagos Conservation Trust, Nigel has being active in conservation for several decades. He was editor and publisher of the magazine Wildlife for 17 years and worked for WWF-UK as Director of Information. Nigel has also served on the Council of the Zoological Society of London and was a long-time Trustee of Survival International. He was awarded the Order of the Golden Ark for services to nature conservation. He has written or edited numerous books and continues to work as a writer and editor on natural history and conservation. He is the publisher of the Ocean Explorer series of maps.

The Trustees and staff of the Galapagos Conservation Trust would like to pass on their thanks to Nigel Sitwell for all his help and support during his time as Chairman. We are pleased to say that Nigel has offered to continue his involvement with the Galapagos Conservation Trust for the next 3 years as one of our Vice Presidents.


Charter in September

Join Discover the World and a guest lecturer from the Galapagos Conservation Trust for an exclusive sailing adventure around the unique Galapagos archipelago and experience one of the most intriguing and inspiring natural habitats on earth.

If you are interested in joining the Galapagos Conservation Trust and Discover the World, and would like some further details, please contact Discover the World at 29 Nork Way, Banstead, SM7 1PB, United Kingdom. Tel: +44(0) 1737 218802 ; Fax: +44(0) 1737 362341 ; Email:


Last Chance to buy Tickets!

3rd & 4th June: Trip to Scottish Seabird Centre, Edinburgh & North Berwick

This is the last chance to purchase tickets for this exciting two night trip to Edinburgh and the Scottish Seabird Centre, North Berwick. This really is a rare opportunity for anyone who has a passion for flora or fauna, or both!

For further details visit or contact Abigail on or 0207 629 5049.


Charity management seminar

On the 5th July, GCT's very own Leonor Stjepic, Executive Director, and Professor Paul Palmer, Professor of Voluntary Sector Management at Cass Business School, are holding a seminar entitled "Not for Profit? The Art of Managing in changing and challenging environments".

This event will certainly appeal to those working for the not for profit sector and to anyone who wants to learn more about this satisfying and increasingly well-paid industry. Join us for this thought-provoking view of charity management and, with summer in mind, learn more about how the unique natural resource that is the Galapagos is being protected for future generations.

For further information visit or contact Abigail on or 0207 629 5049.


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