Tourism pressure is endangering Galapagos Islands

ECUADOR says tourism is threatening the Galapagos Islands and has asked Unesco to add the habitat that inspired the theory of evolution to its endangered list, the culture agency said yesterday.

The UN agency’s World Heritage Committee will consider Ecuador’s request at a week-long meeting that begins in New Zealand today, chairman Tumu te Heuheu said.

The Galapagos Islands, about 620 miles off Ecuador’s Pacific coast, are home to unique animal species that inspired Charles Darwin’s ideas on evolution. They are also Ecuador’s top tourist attraction.

The country’s president, Rafael Correa, says the islands are suffering an environmental crisis and has called for restrictions on tourists.

The islands have “a very fragile ecosystem and there is a need to manage those activities,” Mr Te HeuHeu said.

Unesco protects 830 sites around the world that have what it describes as “outstanding universal values”. The Galapagos gained World Heritage Site status in 1978.

The Tower of London is another World Heritage Site the organisation will consider listing as “in danger” when it meets in the southern city of Christchurch.

The 900-year-old fortress once towered over the city but skyscrapers threaten the view from its turreted towers.

Some 31 World Heritage Sites are already on the danger list. Besides tourism, the threats include natural disasters, pillaging and pollution. Delegates will also consider applications to add at least another 45 new sites to the World Heritage list.

The meeting will also examine how climate change is affecting World Heritage sites and ways to protect them from natural disasters.

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