September 17, 2011
The Galapagos Islands celebrated with pride and enthusiasm the 33rd anniversary of the declaration made by UNESCO as the first World Natural Heritage Site. Effectively, on September 8 of 1978, the Special Committee of UNESCO for World Heritage Sites subscribed the document that registers the Galapagos Islands’ Archipelago as the first World Natural Heritage Site in the planet.
In order to reach such a formidable distinction, the Islands went under a profound scrutiny in order to comply with strict technical criteria that would allow its registration as a World Heritage Site; moreover, the very first one in the world. The natural and peculiar beauty of the islands; de uniqueness and diversity of the animal and plant species which inhabit the islands; the geological origin and dynamics of the Archipelago plus the equally unique evolutionary processes and the unusually high levels of conservation were among the basic elements considered by UNESCO in declaring the Galapagos as the first World Natural Heritage Site.
Nonetheless, it was the extraordinary biological processes and their ongoing dynamics, which had led scientists, biologists, naturalists and academics around the world to consider the Galapagos as a “living laboratory” where humans can witness directly how a high percentage of the animal and plant life have turned into a biologically (and thus genetically) distinct species, not found anywhere else in our planet, the main factor which prompted the declaration of the Galapagos Archipelago as a place with characteristics to be part of a Legacy for Humanity.
The commemoration of these first 33 years leading the list of World Natural Heritage Sites was organized and directed by the Galapagos National Service, together with the local authorities and was focused on an intense participation of the local community, which proudly remembered with a host of civic and cultural events, the significance of beholding such a world distinction as well as the big responsibility of living up to the needs of preserving such a natural wonder of our planet. The national authorities of Ecuador, as well as the international scientific and conservationist community also celebrated this new anniversary.
The celebrations in Galapagos featured a parade with the students of the island’s educational schools, joining the National Park’s officials and Park wardens and rangers, together with the local authorities and representatives of varied sectors of the Galapagos community. All of the social actors showed to be closely united around a common cause: the Galapagos pride and the preservation of the natural treasure which the islands represent. A Galapagos paintings exhibit, held at the iconic San Francisco Park, near the picturesque Waterfront of Puerto Ayora and with the background of the pretty Academy Bay, was another highlight of the commemoration, which congregated hundreds of local residents as well as passing visitors and tourists, who admired the skills of the local artists, many of them young students, depicting the most representative elements of the unique natural characteristics of the “Enchanted” Islands. Additional activities included an exhibit of handicrafts with
Galapagos motifs as well as a “Galapagos Dance and Music” Festival.
This was the occasion to reiterate the vocation of these world famous islands, a province of the Republic of Ecuador, to be seen as a model of sustainable development; a pioneer case of organized and responsible tourism on a protected area; a world class ecotourism destiantion and one of the planet’s premier destinations for scientific research and investigation; a Mecca for applied science and well managed conservation and an inspiring place, worthy of being, in addition to a World Heritage Site, a Biosphere Reserve; the second largest Marine Reserve in the world; a Whale and Cartilaginous fishes’ Sanctuary and an inspiring place which proudly deserves the condition of a Natural Wonder of our planet.