The Galápagos islands are a small cluster of islands situated 100 miles from Ecuador in the Pacific ocean.These islands are most known for the birth of a theory of evolution that revolutionised the way people look at origin of life throughout the world. It was first theorised by Charles Darwin in his book ‘Origin of species’ in 1835. The book explained how organisms evolved from other organisms. He also explains natural selection, where few organisms continue to survive while others die due to their varying capacity to modify their traits according to their surroundings.These theories were and still are disapproved by many who believe that god created every creature as it is. Since then Galápagos islands has been a hub for both evolutionists and creationists.
Over the years the world in Galápagos is been changing mainly due to its increasing popularity.The islands is a world heritage site and home to many endemic plants and animals but lately Galápagos has been facing various kinds of human induced challenges. Conflicts between conservationists trying to safeguard threatened marine organisms while native fisherman trying to make a livelihood is only getting serious with time. It seems like all the scientists and conservationists are trying to protect the island’s’ ecosystem by keeping the native people away.This makes the native dwellers feel that the conservationist want to save the plants and animals at the cost of the life of local people.
Politicians are taking advantage of this situation to win the support of the people by illegally allowing them to carry out construction in protected areas.Tourism has also had a grave impact, were people coming from other parts of the world brought animals and plants such as red ants, blueberry, pigs, rats etc. that are invasive to the island. Goats were brought to the islands as a fresh source of meat but the goat population increased rapidly that soon became a threat to the native plants.
-By Modern Farmer
Isabella Project: The first signs of a brewing conflict
This lead to Isabella project, were thousands of goats were massacred ruthlessly. Project Isabella was launched in 1997 to eradicate the goat population on the islands. Goats were believed to have fed on the vegetation which was also important for the survival of the native tortoises. The Native tortoises without the ability to compete with the increasing population of goats on the Islands started to die out. This raised raised an alarm among the conservationists. They in order protect these tortoises started to come up with peculiar ideas. They juggled with idea of introducing animals which would restore balance by devouring and thus reducing the goats. This funnily went against the very concept of natural selection. In the end they simply decided on manually killing the goats. Thus the Project Isabella was put into action
The project made sure 2,50,000 goats were killed by 2006 and this mass slaughter was conducted in a planned, systematic way. Orders were simple, shoot every goat at site. In order to do so goat herds needed to be spotted, few goats were injected with hormones to keep them in estrus (heat) perpetually. These goats were called the ‘Judas goat‘. These Judas goats were always to be found with the herd, making it easy for the ‘conservationists’ to spot them.
“It can be hard to see so many goats lying dead out there,” said a scientist of the Galapagos Conservancy. “But those goats were destroying the habitat of the tortoises. In my heart and mind are the tortoises.”
This story of Project Isabella shows how the so called conservationists in the desperate act of protecting the flora and fauna of Galapagos became insensitive to anything that came in their way.
Have we forgotten to strike a balance?
Over population is also a great threat to the islands as it has put pressure on a extremely sensitive ecosystem. The islands can be conserved by reducing tourism substantially as the ecosystem needs to be given its space to function without the pressure imposed by human beings.
It is important to stop poaching and overfishing but this cannot be done by removing the island dwellers from their native land. The local people and the conservationists have to be on the same side to protect the Galápagos islands. It is also important to research and study the evidences of evolution found on the islands but science is not more important than the lives of these organisms. Therefore, It is important for everyone to come together to resolve these issues in a more democratic and sensitive way to make sure that the conflicts between various groups of people do not end up destroying the lives of innocent species thriving on these islands.