PUERTO AYORA: Just as Charles Darwin had done in the year 1831, a group of scientists and environmentalists set sail (last year) from the English port of Plymouth and headed for the Galapagos islands off the coast of Ecuador.

However, what they found upon arriving (last month), ‘differed vastly’ from what naturalist Darwin witnessed whilst visiting the archipelago in the year 1835. This trip had played a key role in developing his ‘world-changing theory’ on ‘natural selection’.

Presently, the Galapagos is under protection as part of a marine reserve and is classified as a ‘World Heritage Site’. Yet the area faces more threats than ever before, specifically from pollution, illegal fishing and climate change.

There to ‘observe’ the challenges, with a well-thumbed copy of her great-great-grandfather’s “On the Origin of Species” in hand, was the botanist ‘Sarah Darwin’.

“I think probably the main difference is that, you know, there are people working now to protect the islands” the 60-year-old, told the press. Darwin was onboard the “Oosterschelde”, which is a refurbished, three-mast ‘schooner’ built over a century ago.

The ship has been on a ‘scientific and awareness-raising expedition’ since August of last year, stopping so far in the Canary Islands, Cape Verde, Brazil and Chile among other locales.

Darwin’s ‘heirs’

In the colonial era, the islands which are located in one of the world’s most biodiverse regions, served as a ‘pit-stop’ for pirates who caught and ate the humongous turtles who call the Galapagos home. During the second world war, the archipelago hosted a US military base.

“I think if (Darwin) were able to come back now and see the efforts that everybody is making, both locally and globally, to protect these extraordinary islands and that biodiversity, I think he’d be really, really excited and impressed” the naturalist’s descendant stated.

Sarah Darwin first visited the Galapagos islands in the year 1995, where she illustrated a guide to endemic plants. She then devoted herself to studying native tomatoes.

Darwin is engaged in mentoring young individuals, as part of a project to create a group of 200 Darwin “heirs”. They ‘warn about environmental and climatic threats’ that face ‘our planet’. Calling at several ports on the journey from Plymouth to the Galapagos, the Oosterschelde took on new groups of young scientists and activists at every stop, whilst dropping off others along the way.

One of them was the Indian-born ‘Laya Pothunuri’, who joined the mission from Singapore. She stated that the Galapagos “has a very important place in scientific terms.” She was there, she said, to improve the irrigation systems in the islands’ coffee-growing regions.

“I plan to do it using recycled plastic, which also, again, is a big problem over here” she said noting that plastic waste ends up being consumed by wildlife.

Plastic peril

In the Galapagos, members of the expedition worked alongside researchers from the private ‘Universidad San Francisco de Quito’ (USFQ), the ‘Charles Darwin Foundation’ and the NGO ‘Conser­vation International’, on both confronting invasive species’ and protecting endemic ones.

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

Another lynching
Updated 22 Jun, 2024

Another lynching

The chilling alternative to not doing anything — which appears to be the state’s preferred option — is the advent of mob rule.
Tax & representation
22 Jun, 2024

Tax & representation

THE taxation measures outlined in the budget for the incoming fiscal year have triggered a lot of concern among ...
Life of the party?
22 Jun, 2024

Life of the party?

THE launch of Awaam Pakistan, a party led by former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and former finance minister...
KP’s ‘power struggle’
Updated 21 Jun, 2024

KP’s ‘power struggle’

Instead of emboldening protesters, CM Gandapur should encourage his provincial subjects to clear their due bills and ensure theft is minimised.
Journalist’s murder
21 Jun, 2024

Journalist’s murder

ANOTHER name has been added to the list of journalists murdered in Pakistan. On Tuesday, Khalil Jibran’s vehicle...
A leaner government?
21 Jun, 2024

A leaner government?

FINANCE Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb has reiterated his government’s ‘commitment’ to shutting down ministries...