40% of the 30,000 people who live in the Galapagos Islands are under 16 years old and about 90% of them have never left the urban areas of the Islands to experience the Galapagos National Park – despite the fact that this covers 97% of the Islands.
Galapagos Conservation Trust (GCT) want to use Giving Tuesday as a platform to encourage the young people in Galapagos to connect with nature.
One of the most iconic animals on the Islands is the Galapagos giant tortoise. Their populations, although now stabilising, were historically devastated over two centuries by pirates and whalers. Between 100,000 and 200,000 tortoises were lost and, on some islands, they were driven to extinction. Although no longer hunted, tortoises still struggle to survive. All of the Galapagos giant tortoise species alive today are under threat and are on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species – they range from Vulnerable to Critically Endangered.
With a growing human population on the Islands, it is important to work with the locals to reduce these threats in order to protect giant tortoises and the other unique animals of Galapagos. Research around the emerging ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ has shown that practical environmental education opportunities are crucial to building wildlife conservation values in young people. Those who experience nature when they were children are more prone to protect nature when they grow up – and GCT want to encourage this in Galapagos.
GCT support many education and outreach projects in Galapagos. One such project involves taking children into the Galapagos National Park on Santa Cruz island to see wild Galapagos giant tortoises. For many of them, this is the first time that they will have seen the tortoises that their home is named after (Galapago is an old Spanish word for tortoises). Not only do they get to see tortoises in their natural environment, but they also get the opportunity to learn what scientists are doing to protect them. There are 25 schools (primary and secondary) on Galapagos with around 400 teachers and 7,500 students, which gives GCT an amazing scope to reach a huge population across the Archipelago.
This Giving Tuesday, GCT want to be able to raise £1,800 which could allow us to take 12 student groups out into the Galapagos National Park in 2019 to experience the wildlife and nature for themselves. Without the support and enthusiasm of the people who share the Enchanted Isles with the giant tortoises, how will we ever be able to protect them and their home?