Recently, the Galapagos has become the focal point of another idea that is unpopular with some people - namely, protectionists. Seems an American resident by the name of Braden Escobar, who lives in Ecuador but has an office in South Florida has taken on the Holy Global Ecotourism Establishment - even the Charles Darwin Association! - and questioned its whole approach to saving the planet. What he's done is exploit some loopholes in Ecuadorian law and begun to offer cull hunts for some of the estimated 200,000 feral goats and 20,000 to 30,000 feral donkeys that are destroying the habitat of the islands. We have already published one report on these hunts (see May, 1999 issue, pages 5-7) and now have two more reports to pass along this month.
In the process of providing these hunts, Escobar has ruffled the anti-hunting sensibilities of the Charles Darwin people and cast some uncomfortably revealing light on the way ecotourism revenues really flow. Seems only a fraction of the revenue generated by Galapagos ecotourism winds up in local pockets. Most of it, as we've said before in other contexts, winds up in tourist company offices in major cities like New York and London, not to mention Quito, Ecuador, where the guild of sorts that controls Gala-pagos ecotourism is based.
What Escobar has done is ally himself with the local people on Galapagos, who of course are ultimately going to decide the fate of the islands. He uses them to conduct his hunts, and is working hard now to organize villager-run sportfishing trips. In a........(continued)