Friends and Family May 2016

May 12, 2016 Off By rick

Dear Friends and Family, May 2016

Apologies for being away from writing these things for a while.
So much has happened since I last wrote; both with the Galapagos and with ourselves that I think I’m going to attach a couple of my favorite photos and just bullet point a few things.
The super El Niño that was going to pulverize much of the planet and certainly the Galapagos only kinda sorta showed up here. We were pretty worried. There are many species here whose naturally occurring numbers would automatically put them on any endangered list. Penguins 2,000 and flightless cormorants 1,500 are two which depend on cold water currents to survive, an El Niño of course heats up the water. In the 1989 El Niño the number of penguins was reduced to 800. There are also several species of plants here that have no known relatives in the rest of the world. They went extinct everywhere else.
How it shook out here this year was that our cold season proceeding the warm season never cooled off (I have wetsuits that I haven’t had to use for more than a year). It heated up here earlier and slightly stronger and lasted longer into late April, however with the exception of a couple of days in December (when it normally doesn’t rain), the predicted torrential rains never showed up. Those December rains did by the way destroy a bike path that was being built between Puerto Ayora and the Itabaca channel on the far side of the island.
In 1989 half the sea lion population died. Nothing like that happened this year.
I never wrote about the family of animal rescuers that were here and how you bring yourself with you, maybe next time, good story and nice people.
Along the lines of predictions about the Galapagos…. You’ll need a little back story.
We now have container ships showing up, unloading these Maersk containers. Used to be everything was unloaded by hand or with small cranes. The twenty-five mega hotels are under construction, one with a golf course. People can now book their own flights to the Galapagos on Expedia et al. The national park was supposed to raise the park entrance fee (which is currently sixty percent cheaper than it was when it was instigated owing to inflation over the years), but has not. The word on the street is that hasn’t happen because of political pressure from national investors in economic services in the Galapagos. We had more than 200,000 thousand visitors last year. You can now purchase Galapagos residency with a 25K investment in the Galapagos. The Charles Darwin Foundation has gone basically bankrupt, due to the Mayor of Puerto Ayora, read national government revoking their business license. The mayor could not have done that without permission from above.
The Charles Darwin Foundation has no power, is basically a group of concerned scientists and administrators funded by donations. They coordinate or coordinated visiting scientist with the national park, advised the government and disseminate information about the Galapagos. They had a small store at the station which accounted for most of its income and this was the business license that was revoked, ostensibly because shop owners in downtown felt they were losing too much business to this store. The store had been there longer than most of the downtown.
Every year since 2003, when the Galapagos only had thirty thousand visitors, the Charles Darwin Foundation has been publishing articles from scientists explaining the ecological disaster that has already happened here and warning that if the exponential rise in tourism in the Galapagos is not checked it will besides promote the decimation of threatened species, be a long term economic disaster for the nation of Ecuador. The country of Ecuador has not appreciated these warnings.
My point is that I am certain that if you told any one of the scientists publishing these reports in 2003 or 4 or 5 what has transpired since, they would be flabbergasted that their predictions haven’t come to their full fruition yet and extremely sad to see that it is only a matter of time before they do.
The Grants, these are the scientists that have been studying ground finches on a big rock called Daphne Major for the last thirty years have witnessed an adaption in the beak of some of these birds, actually witnessed evolution and have isolated a gene in the birds that causes this quick adaptiveness. Apparently every living thing has this gene; it is just that some have more active ones than others. This really is the Galapagos.
Siempre Amor From the Galapagos,