Environment Forum

On Darwin anniversary: tourist limits to Galapagos, Antarctica?

Should the world celebrate the 200th anniversary today of the birth of English naturalist Charles Darwin by working to limit the number of tourists visiting the Galapagos Islands or Antarctica to protect their spectacular wildlife?

Would that help elephant seals like this one above on the Antarctic Peninsula slumber more peacefully? And would it cause less disruption for marine iguanas, below right, on Santa Cruz island in the Galapagos?

The Galapagos in the Pacific Ocean gave Darwin insights into evolution on his famed voyage around the world aboard The Beagle. Many species — from mockingbirds to tortoises – differ from those on the South American mainland. For a story, click here.

And Antarctica, which wasn’t even discovered when Darwin was born on Feb. 12, 1809, is the world’s last big wilderness.

About 39,000 tourists are likely to visit Antarctica this current summer season, down from a record 46,000 a year ago and interrupting a fast-rising trend in the past couple of decades, according to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators. For a story, click here. Recession has hit bookings of trips that cost thousands of dollars.

“Lonesome George” may cheat extinction

George the giant tortoise is seen at the national park on the Galapagos islands in this April 29, 2007 file photo.So “Lonesome George” might become a Dad?

In lists of endangered creatures such as black rhinos, orang utans, tigers or blue whales, ”Lonesome George” has long had the saddest status as the only one known survivor of the Pinta island species of Galapagos giant tortoise.

That has made him the “rarest living creature” for the Guinness Book of Records.

But now my colleague Alonso Soto in Quito reports that he’s mated with one of his two female companions of a similar species and keepers have found several eggs in his pen. If they hatch, they would at least preserve half of his genes.