Galapagos were first declared a National Park in 1959, but it was not until 1968 that The Galapagos National Park Service started operating from offices in Puerto Ayora, close to the Charles Darwin Research Station. The operation has grown over the years and now employs over 100 wardens as well as an administrative staff on the three main inhabited islands of San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Villamil on Isabela.
The Galapagos National Park Service is the main conservation organisation in charge of all programs to conserve the Galapagos ecosystem, it works closely with the Charles Darwin Foundation to identify and deal with numerous threats, such as invasive species, illegal fishing, and large numbers of tourists.
National Park Rules
The Galapagos Islands are one of the few places in the world that remain relatively untouched by human exploitation. The preservation of the environment is everybody’s responsibility. You can help, by following some simple rules which will help to maintain the archipelago’s fragile ecosystem intact. The future depends on you.
- Be careful not to transport any live material to the islands, or from island to island (insects, seeds, soil). You are not allowed to bring pets to the islands.
- No plants, rocks, animals or their remains, such as bones, pieces of wood, corals, shells, or other natural objects should be removed or disturbed. You may damage the islands ecological conditions.
- Animals should not be touched or handled. A sea lion pup will be abandoned by its mother, for example, if she smells the scent of man on her young. The same applies to chicks of birds.
- Animals may not be fed. It may alter their life cycle, their social structure and affect their reproduction.
- Do not disturb or pursue any animal from its resting or nesting spot. This is especially true for birds such as boobies, cormorants, gulls and frigates. The nests should be approached carefully, keeping a distance of at least 2 metres. If disturbed, the bird will flee and abandon its egg or chick, which could be predated or die under the strong sun within just a few minutes.
- All groups which visit the National Park must be accompanied by a qualified guide approved by the National Park. The visitor must follow the trails, marked with small black-and-white posts, and never leave it. If you do so, you may destroy nests and plants without being conscious of it (marine iguanas nest in the sand).
- Follow the guide; stay with him or her for information and advice. He or she is responsible for you. If the guide behaves badly or does not follow the rules himself, report him or her to the National Park.
- Litter of all types must be kept off the islands. Disposal at sea must be limited to certain types of garbage, only to be thrown overboard in selected areas. Keep all rubbish: film wrappers, cigarette butts, chewing gum, tin cans, bottles, etc., in a bag or pocket, to be disposed of on your boat, or preferably take it home with you. Do not throw anything overboard, it could end up on the beach, or be eaten by sea turtles or sea lions. A sea lion may play with a tin can found on the bottom and cut its sensitive muzzle. Sea turtles may die from swallowing a plastic bag.
- Do not paint names or graffiti on rocks. It is against the law, and you will be fined for it.
- Do not buy souvenirs or objects made from plants or animals of the islands (with the exception of articles made from wood). Among such articles are turtle shells, sea lion teeth and black coral. This is the best way to discourage such a trade.
- To camp, you need a permit from the National Park Service (Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela). Do not make fires, but use a gas stove instead. Park suggestions may be useful.
- Do not hesitate to show your conservationist attitude. Explain these rules to others, and help to enforce them.