How Sustainability in the Galapagos Islands Impacts the Relationship Between Humans and Wildlife

By Eve Elkins ‘21 — St. Mark’s School

Imagine if you could walk right up to a bird without it flying away. This is something we don’t see often in urban areas today. However, the Galapagos Islands have a much different ecosystem, where animals are valued just as much as people. The attraction to the Galapagos islands has dramatically increased over the years. It has increased by about 28,000 people in the last 60 years (1). These islands are covered in wildlife who have relied on the natural climate to survive. Now that these islands are growing in population, could the climate be destroyed or disrupted? Would this be the end of many fascinating species of Galapagos wildlife?

This summer, my family took a trip to the Galapagos Islands. We stayed at the Galapagos Safari Camp. This campsite was hugely involved in keeping the Galapagos wildlife safe. It ran on solar energy and all food was local. During the day, my family went on trips to smaller islands. The experience was so unique because I had never seen animals that were so peaceful with human interaction. While we were exploring the islands, the wildlife acted like we didn’t even exist. They weren’t afraid of us. On the contrary, some even wanted to play with us.

This was so interesting because here in the USA, the relationship between animals and people is a lot more damaged. This is a result of many factors, but mainly, the damage we have been doing to our environment. The destruction of habitats by deforestation, as well as ocean and air pollution have impacted many of our wildlife species. In the Galapagos, people value their animals just as much as they do themselves. They follow this moral by preserving the environment as much as they can. Our first encounter with their sustainability was in the airport. The energy used at the airport is 100% powered by solar and wind energy. 65% of that energy  comes from windmills and the other 35% comes from solar panels placed in the terminal walkways (2).

Although citizens have been making serious efforts to reduce damage being done to the habitats of animals, there are still some factors they can’t control. The main challenge  they face is the population growth, and tourism. The islands are becoming more industrialized due to the growth of travelers visiting the country. More hotels will need to be built causing less space for the indigenous creatures to live. Another problem caused by tourism is that the local fisherman and farmers cannot supply enough local food anymore, because the number of visitors has grown rapidly. In order to produce enough food, they have to receive it from off-island sources instead of local sources. This creates more pollution in the air and in the ocean, all of which will unbalance the food chain. Tourism is disturbing the way of life in the Galapagos and if not regulated, it could cease the existence of many creatures.

By the efforts of preserving the environment, Galapagos citizens help to keep the habitat of their wildlife untouched and undisturbed. This is the reason they have such a loving relationship with their animals. Tourists are affecting the relationship between animals and humans greatly, as well as causing the local people to change their sustainable lifestyles. If we can strive to value sustainability as much as the Galapagos already does, we can slowly repair our broken partnership with our wildlife. Maybe if we can help repair the homes that we have damaged, animals will respect us more and fear us less. We owe this to them because after all, they were here first.