Only a few years ago, the unique plant and animal world of the Galápagos was gravely threatened by a steady increase in tourism, with the related issues of garbage and sewage accumulation, oil accidents and imported bacteria pests and invasive species. The Ecuadorian government, under the relentless pressure of the Charles Darwin Foundation, finally started a campaign to save the islands. Illegal occupants, for example, were ordered back to the mainland. Access through tourism was severely regulated and a system was devised to help the islands’ population be more self-sufficient. This allowed a drastic reduction of imported goods and therefore the danger of importing foreign animals or diseases along with them. In addition, the renewable energy supply based on solar and wind power received a large boost. As a result of these combined measures, the Galápagos Islands were taken off UNESCO’s endangered “red list,” to which they had sadly been added in 2007. “Contrary to all prophecies of doom, the archipelago really is a success story,” Swen Lorenz declares.
IWC Schaffhausen joined the ranks of supporters and guardians of this ecological jewel in 2009 – the year the scientific world celebrated Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday. “Without significant business support, our work would hardly be possible,” says Swen Lorenz. Nonetheless, the constant constraints of limited funding often force scientists to take a more creative approach. Today, Lorenz and his team are taking advantage of the Internet and modern communication technology to focus the world’s awareness on the ongoing dangers and threats facing this unique Ark in the South Pacific.