Mass Tourism and Overpopulation Endangers the Ecology of the Galapagos Islands


More and more rare species are being threatened by tourism on the Galapagos Islands. Among them are lizards, birds and other animals that live on the islands. Most of them are killed by the growing number of cars and buses that cross the highlands. Especially finches, birds that helped Charles Darwin prove his the theory of evolution, are in danger of dying out completely.

The Galapagos, volcanic islands in the Pacific, about a thousand km off the coast of Ecuador, represent a whole ecosystem with animals and plants that cannot be found elsewhere on earth.  UNESCO made the islands a World Heritage Site.
However, the islands are being ruined by environmental changes. Coastlines and harbors show signs of oily water as boatloads of tourists arrive there. Towns have hotels that are only half-finished. And ecologists complain about dirty, contaminated ground water, because the sewers are leaky.


The Galapagos Islands have witnessed an economic boom over the past years. About 40,000 people live in richest place in Ecuador where wages are almost 70% higher than in most of the country. Although Ecuadorian authorities restrict immigration to the islands many go there in search of a new life. With them arrive new species of ants and insects. They also bring along dogs, cats, rats and other animals that threaten the natural ecosystem of the islands.


What started out as ecotourism with only a few thousand people visiting the Galapagos Islands every year has turned into mass tourism. Today almost 200,000 tourists come to the islands annually. However, they are not so much interested in biology or wildlife but in spending a nice vacation in an exotic place.

Most tourists book package cruise tours to the islands. The average cost of a week-long trip including flights to Ecuador is about 3000 dollars, not a very cheap vacation destination.

The fight to save the endangered islands has long been underway. Even though the Galapagos Islands are being helped with money from environmentalist organizations, local people do not always know how to use it. The government has also realized that they need to protect the islands because tourism is a big source of income to the poor Latin American country.


Related Topics



  • although = while
  • annually = every year
  • authorities = government organizations that have the power to do things
  • coast = where water meets land
  • complain = protest, to say that something is bad
  • completely = totally
  • contaminated = dirty
  • cruise = travel by ship
  • destination = place to go
  • economic boom = time when businesses grow and people earn a lot of money
  • ecosystem = all the animals and plants in a place and the way they live together
  • ecologist = a person who studies how plants and animals live in the world around them
  • environment = the world around us
  • especially = above all
  • evolution = the idea or theory that plants and animals change over a long period of time
  • exotic = unusual, far away
  • finch = small bird with a short pointed mouth
  • government = people who rule a country
  • harbor = place where ships come to land or stay to load and unload goods
  • however = but
  • immigration = when people leave their homes and go to a new place to find work and live there
  • leaky = to have a small hole
  • lizard = type of reptile that has four legs and a long tail
  • local = people who live in the area
  • mass tourism = tourists come in great numbers
  • package tour = a complete trip, including a place to stay, food, transfers, sightseeing etc…
  • prove = show, confirm
  • rare = seldom, unusual
  • realize = to find out
  • represent = to be part of
  • restrict = limit, control
  • ruin = damage completely
  • sewer = underground passage that carries dirty water away from houses and factories
  • source = basis, where something comes from
  • species = group of animals and plants whose members are similar and can have babies together
  • threaten = to be in danger
  • UNESCO = United Nations organization that helps poorer countries and offers them help in education and technology
  • vacation = holidays
  • wages = the money that people get for the work that they do
  • witness = observe, see
  • World Heritage Site = natural or cultural place that the United Nations say is worth preserving