Throughout history, human travel to the Galapagos Islands has been infrequent. Historians actually believe the Incas never arrived. Pre-Incan cultures perhaps did travel to Galapagos, but here too, it is believed that the only people who washed up on the archipelago’s shores were castaways and poor souls who had lost their way. The Spaniards that did arrive in Galapagos decided early on that it was not a desirable place to land, let alone vacation in. So the islands were largely ignored during colonial rule.
Pirates and whalers did, of course, travel Galapagos, but their numbers weren’t significant at all. And later, upon independence from Spain, Ecuadorian efforts to colonize the islands failed miserably, never making the Galapagos travel-friendly until park status gave way to tourism.
Given these facts, it is amazing that with such little human presence, so much damage was done.
It is common knowledge that Galapagos Islands wildlife before tourism suffered the brunt of its sporadic human visitors. But a silent evil during all these years in the islands has been precisely what these visitors left behind from their travels… From large to microscopic, and seemingly insignificant to obviously threatening, the list of life forms that are dangerous to the Galapagos environment include rats, cats, blackberries, goats, cockroaches, black flies, and guava.
The list is enormous. The plight is very difficult. But Galapagos Islands authorities are working hard to eradicate invasive species systematically. Among recent targets are rats, and among recent success stories, the eradication of ants in Marchena.
This is why it is so important that when you travel to the Galapagos, you are aware of what you bring and take from the islands. It is prohibited to take things back with you from your Galapagos holiday cruise, no matter how pretty the shell or small the rock. But it is also important to be wary of what you bring to each island. We must leave the least trace possible of our visit. No matter the luxury of the cruise, Galapagos tours must always strive to ensure no more undesired introductions. The simple awareness of this fact helps the overall conservation efforts of the archipelago.