A letter written in response to a piece published in the Observer on June 10th, written by Carol Cadwalladr on the negative effects of tourism in the Galapagos.
You can read the article by clicking on the above link and below is a letter written in response to the article, by Swen Lorenz, Executive Director of the Charles Darwin Foundation:
“Your recent article about the Galápagos Islands (“Galápagos menaced by tourist invasion”, Sunday 10th June 2012 by Caroline Cadwalladr) contains too many factual errors and misconceptions to comment on all of them.
E.g., Felipe Cruz did not speak to Ms Cadwalladr as the Director of Technical Assistance of the Charles Darwin Foundation. He had clearly pointed out that he is currently on leave of absence from our organisation and instead spoke to Ms Cadwalladr as a consultant of the London-based Galápagos Conservation Trust (GCT).
Ms Cadwalladr did not want to take the time to look at the many aspects where great success has been achieved by conservation efforts in the Galápagos. As a matter of fact, the Galapagos have been the location of some of the world’s most successful conservation projects, and Ecuador is the world’s first country to grant rights to nature in its constitution. The very problems that the article mentions have long been identified and are actively being worked on:
– Protective barriers have been erected around the airport to prevent iguanas from entering the airfield
– An education campaign is asking drivers of cars to pay close attention to birds on the roads
– Enormous efforts are going into developing and improving models for responsible eco-tourism
Organisations that are part of these efforts include the Galápagos National Park, the Consejo de Gobierno de Galápagos, the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Heritage, NGOs such as WWF, and the Charles Darwin Foundation, as well as GCT, to name just a few.
Unfortunately, Ms Cadwalladr simply chose to ignore much of the information she was given about all this by our staff. Even right after her visit, I sent a message to our partner organisation, Galápagos Conservation Trust, to complain about the unprofessional and disrespectful behaviour of Ms Cadwalladr. The quotes she uses in her article are also partially erroneous, and have been taken out of context. Ms Cadwalladr launched personal attacks on staff and partners, some of whom had taken time out of their personal diary to provide – in good faith about The Guardian’s reputation – their view about the Galápagos Islands.
The most saddening part is that the kind of one-sided reporting that Ms Cadwalladr engaged in directly contributes to the problems of the islands. As Sir David Attenborough succinctly summed up, without tourism the Galápagos would not exist anymore. Our institution’s position is that tourists should visit, but they should do so responsibly. A loss of tourism income would be catastrophic to the conservation measures taken for the islands by the Government of Ecuador and by the many organisations that are working on behalf of the archipelago.
Last but not least, I strongly object – both personally as well as in my role as Executive Director of the Charles Darwin Foundation – to the inhabitants of the islands being portrayed in the way Ms Cadwalladr’s article sets out. Every day, countless individuals living in Galápagos work passionately, tirelessly and often at great personal sacrifices, to deal with the challenges of the island. I am convinced that by working with the population of the islands (and the Government of Ecuador), solutions to the current challenges can be found.
It is people like Ms Cadwalladar – who come to Galápagos to further their own career and ambitions, but without giving anything back – that are the real problem. I have known The Guardian as a source of balanced, factual information. Unfortunately, its readers have also suffered from this slanted article, as they have not been given a complete picture.
Finally, I would like to see an official correction published in your newspaper because of the reputational damage that the Charles Darwin Foundation as advisor of the government of Ecuador has suffered as a consequence of your one-sided, erroneous reporting.
With best regards,
Executive Director, Charles Darwin Foundation”