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Wildlife Camera » Strange and tame, wildlife of Galapagos

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Still looking good, out on the Reef »

Strange and tame, wildlife of Galapagos

10 April 2007


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sealion galapagos

The vital word in wildlife tourism is BIG. People who travel the world to see animals want them to be large or they want to see huge numbers. There is also another vital ingredient. You must be able to get a close-up. Distant wildlife doesn’t sell, the experts all agree on that.

Mix all three of these vital selling points and you have an experience that people will buy, even if it’s on the other side of the globe. The Galapagos Islands prove the point. These equatorial isles of the Pacific, recently in the news because of oil-spill threats, score highly because they not only have large and rare creatures in abundance, but everything is completely fearless.

My own particular memory is of lying on a clifftop to watch sealions (pictured) and sharks patrolling around a great shoal of fish in the glass-clear sea below, as shearwaters gave a flying demonstration across the heaving swell, leaving miraculous brief streaks of silver bubbles on the face of the waves as their wingtips cut the surface.

 I was nudged out of my trance by a thump on the elbow.

I had been joined on the hot rock by an orange-mottled iguana, more than 4ft long, who was trying to climb on my back to get a better view of his territory. He was massive, but seemed to be harmless.

Sailing slowly from island to island, our 90-passenger schooner took us to bays where we swam with the female sealions and their youngsters — while avoiding their irate husbands — and met scores of curious creatures eyeball-to-eyeball. Boobies and frigatebirds, giant tortoises and marine iguanas, all so close that I had to step back to get them in focus in the zoom lens.

The Galapagos could hardly be farther away or more inaccessible — a long flight out into the Pacific from Ecuador — but for wildlifers they are one of the few places that will never be summed up with ‘So what?’  Their primeval oddity affects everyone.

It’s also comforting to know that some of the birds and beasts are not upset by people. Researchers keen to prove that tourism was a Bad Thing, actually found that the Blue-footed boobies — delightful gannets of the tropics — which laid their eggs right on the tourist paths were more successful in rearing young than birds on unvisited islands.—Willy Newlands (Copyright) (Photos from 123RF – for iguana and Blue-footed booby, see Photo Gallery)

FOOTNOTE: President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, speaking on 11 April, called on his cabinet to fight “the environmental and social crisis” on the Galapagos Islands. He said the nation would consider suspending some tourism permits. Rigorous population restrictions would be imposed to prevent further damage to the World Heritage Site.  About 18,000 people live legally on the Galapagos, with a further 15,000 believed to have arrived without permits. Current problems centre around illegal fishing, with local conservationists accusing the country’s armed forces of being involved in widespread poaching of sharks and sea cucumbers.


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