Ecuador Chases Citizens Off Galapagos to Save Islands

UN says too many people on islands is destroying animal habitats
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 8, 2008 9:48 AM CDT
Lava flowing down the northeastern flank of the Cerro Azul volcano on the Isabela island, the largest of the Galapagos Islands, is seen Friday, May 30, 2008.   (AP Photo/Galapagos National Park)
camera-icon View 3 more images

(Newser) – Ecuador is forcing those without permission to live in the Galapagos to leave, over fears that a growing human population threatens the species that make the islands unique. Even Ecuadorean citizens need special visas to visit the Galapagos, but thousands of mainland migrants have been staying illegally, drawn by high wages and good schools, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Some scientists have called for limits on tourists, rather than residents, but President Rafael Correa maintains that his plan will save the endangered islands. Rising pollution and an influx of non-native animals are the primary threats to the tortoises and other species that inspired Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection. Visits to Galapagos National Park have been jumping 13% per year for the last decade.