The Galapagos Islands - a conflict of interests : a case study of how conservation, tourism and local interests meet, and howthat affect the islands and the residents

University essay from SLU/Dept. of Urban and Rural Development

Abstract: This thesis aims to examine how conservation, a growing tourism industry, and local interests meet at the Galapagos islands, Ecuador, and how that affects the islands and the people living or working there. This study is a result of a case study conducted at the Galapagos islands, mainly the island of Santa Cruz (which is the most populated island and the “economic capital”, as well as the island that has gone through the most rapid change in relation to growing tourism industry and development), done over the course of six weeks. The Galapagos Islands, situated 1000 kilometers from the Ecuadorian coast, has for a long time been very isolated, which has resulted in a rather “un-touched” nature and wildlife, which is unique for the islands. The Galapagos Islands gained a lot of attention worldwide after Charles Darwin visited and based his evolutionary theory on the discoveries made there. This lead to scientists all over the world wanted to preserve and study this unique place, therefore 97% of the area was turned into a national park conservation. Environmentalists and conservationists were thrilled over this, and a research station was established on one of the more populated islands, Santa Cruz. This however, was not without problems for the local population, who became more restricted and had to live in relation to the conservation rules and agenda. Due to the unique nature and wildlife at Galapagos, a tourism industry developed over the years, and has grown very rapidly during the past few decades. This meant a lot of new opportunities for the local population, who could expand their livelihood opportunities and enter into the tourism industry. The increasing tourism also drew people from mainland Ecuador to relocate to the islands for jobs. This drastically changed the islands economy, as well as the socio-ecological relations. This has resulted in the current situation at Galapagos today, which is a conflict of interest between the conservation agenda wanting to conserve the nature and wildlife and keep it “un-touched”, the tourism that is now the backbone of the local economy, and the local people who has to live in relation to both the conservation regulation as well as the rapidly increasing tourism and development of the islands.

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