The IGTOA’s Efforts to Preserve Endemic Wildlife on the Galapagos

Adventure Life has worked to develop its reputation as a premier vacation planner, earning recognition in industry reviews. After assessing hundreds of travel agents nationwide, Travel+Leisure reviews selected Adventure Life’s own Brian Morgan as a go-to advisor for the Galapagos Islands for the fourth consecutive year. In addition to providing industry-leading hospitality, the firm also works to preserve the integrity of biodiverse habitats through active membership in the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association (IGTOA).

The IGTOA has united dozens of membership travel organizations in a joint effort to support conservation, lending financial support to entities such as the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF). Ever since Darwin first noted the surprising “differences between the inhabitants of the islands” in the Galapagos archipelago nearly 200 years ago, the islands have remained a source of intrigue and wonder to visitors. To this day, the Galapagos Islands remain one of the most concentrated levels of endemism ever discovered: approximately 80 percent of its land birds, 97 percent of reptiles, 30 percent of flora, and 20 percent of marine wildlife are found nowhere else in the world.

The islands have been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979, but the impact of invasive species, habitat loss, and a lack of government oversight pose a serious threat to local wildlife. One of the well-documented examples of the human impact is the recent death of Lonesome George in 2012, the last of the Pinta Island tortoises. Due to human poaching and habitat loss due to an invasive goat species introduced in the 19th century, the Pinta Island tortoises were pushed to the brink of extinction. To date, the IGTOA has contributed more than $100,000 to the CDF, most recently lending in-kind donations to efforts to remove invasive plants and animals. Thanks to the efforts of travel industry professionals, 95 percent of the islands’ original species are alive today, and conservation programs continue.

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