Galapagos Conservation Trust (GCT) has worked on the islands of Galapagos for 25 years, in partnership with Government agencies, local and global charities, universities, research centres and local scientists, to further our mission to conserve the unique nature and beauty of the Galapagos in perpetuity.
On 23 March, it was confirmed that the Islands had four cases of the disease COVID-19. These individuals had travelled from mainland Ecuador. The cases continue to increase, with 25 cases and two deaths confirmed as of 15 April. We know that the local people of the Islands, who number around 30,000 will be acutely affected by the global health crisis that is coronavirus. The Islands have limited health infrastructure, no ‘intensive care’ facilities and their remote locations mean that incoming supplies are severely limited.
GCT’s Board of Trustees has endorsed an immediate and exceptional expenditure of US$5,000 of unrestricted funds to support the Islands. These funds will be applied via our established local partners and is granted with our conservation mission in mind. We have agreed that our funds may be applied to:
1. Healthcare priorities as specified by key government bodies in Galapagos. We are aware our ‘mandate to operate’ in the Galapagos is cemented by the relationships that we hold with the Government agencies in Ecuador and Galapagos including the Galapagos National Park, the Consejo de Gobierno, our local partners and wonderful field team members and education volunteers. At this critical time we stand by them in solidarity, recognising that it is they that make our conservation mission possible. To deliver our mission we need the respect, support and goodwill of the islanders. Our credibility, legitimacy and efficacy will be strengthened by our support at this time of great need.
2. Conservation actions to minimise the impact of COVID-19, including an initial donation via our long term partner, Conservation International to provide essential PPE to safeguard local farmers and the fishing community. If more food supplies can be generated locally and distributed safely, as is critical at this time of lockdown, this means a more sustainable, and safer food supply, potentially reducing the need for ‘imported goods’. Less imports also mean less plastic packaging – a major threat to iconic species such as the marine iguana and Galapagos sea lion. By acting in support of safer local food production, we also act in the interest of sustainable living.
The GCT Board is aware that the financial cost to Galapagos of the Coronavirus will be substantial. The needs of the Islands and priorities for support will change. At the June Board Meeting, the Trustees will revisit the situation on the Islands and the Trust’s response in line with its charitable aims.
I never expected to hear of such heartache and hardship on Islands. It is only right that the Trust acts in partnership and solidarity with the islands and we play our part in tackling this crisis. In doing so we remain absolutely true to our cause – to protect the wonder of Darwin’s Endangered Isles.
Chair of GCT Board
17 April 2020