Galapagos - Update from the Field
by Silvia Sanchez, Marine Program Officer
Greetings from beautiful Ecuador! Although I usually work from the SF WildAid office, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel to the Galapagos to work on two projects. The first of these I started in March 2012 when I got to live on the beautiful island of Santa Cruz for a month and a half while working with the Galapagos National Park (GNP) to strengthen enforcement of the marine protected area by helping create standard protocols for enforcement officials. The second project involves prevention of invasive species through improved cargo inspections and biosecurity where I got to assist in the training held on the mainland in Guayaquil.
The first GNP project is a continuation of the training we did in October 2011 for the park rangers, teaching them about proper boarding, evidence collection, and operations center procedures, among many other topics. From that course, we found that the park needed a set of protocols to perform their daily operations and to better train new employees.
So, WildAid sent me to act as the liaison between the GNP and our team of expert consultants from Harkcon, as well as to represent WildAid in the field. During that time, I collected and translated various documents regarding current park regulations, procedures, and technology used in the field, met up with various park representatives to discuss their needs and negotiate content, and then we created a set of three documents called Standard Operating Procedures that will serve them for years to come. This trip, Marcel Bigue- our marine program director, Rich Arnold from Harkcon, and I set out to present the documents to the GNP, and put the finishing touches on the project.
For the second project, I flew from Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos, back to the mainland to Guayaquil, Ecuador. There, WildAid hosted a workshop for customs officials presented by retired officials from the USDA. I served as the interpreter and translator for the course where we covered topics ranging from proper inspection procedures of cargo, risk assessments, and an analysis of various types of pests that could potentially enter Galapagos. The training also included a visit to the port facilities in Guayaquil, which is where all cargo must stop before entering Galapagos.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to one of the most beautiful places on earth without some time for sightseeing. I took in some of the sights at Tortuga Bay, a stunning beach on Santa Cruz where we spotted an adorable baby sea lion and a crane hamming it up for the tourists, as well as some blacktip sharks in the shallow water. I also squeezed in a hike to Cerro Crocker, one of the tallest peaks on the island that definitely made up for the painful ascent with stunning vistas of the entire island. While in Guayaquil, we explored the area surrounding the river, hiked the 444 steps up to explore the lighthouse and a cute little chapel, as well as drove the 2 hours to the coast and stayed in a beautiful beach house on Punta Blanca that belongs to the director of a local foundation.
I’ve been very lucky to spend so much time here in Ecuador and so I’m hopeful that these two programs together will serve to better protect the beautiful Galapagos landscape for generations to come.