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The Albatross Foundation USA (Fundación Ecológica Albatros) is a non-profit, community-based organization, which was initiated and is led by residents of Puerto Baquerizo Morenomarker in San Cristóbal Islandmarker, the administrative capital of the Galápagos Islandsmarker Province of the Republic of Ecuadormarker. The Albatross Foundation is committed to the protection of the Galapagos land and marine environments and the diversity of the islands’ ecosystems through an educational project which aims to equip the youth of the Galapagos with the enthusiasm, commitment and scientific knowledge that they will need to play a full and constructive role in the future of the Galapagos Islands.

History

The Albatross Foundation (most often presented as Fundacion Ecologica Albatros ) was founded in 1993 by a group of residents on San Cristóbal Island, Galapagos, who were concerned that the young people of the islands were not being given an education that would equip them to play a very constructive role in their future. It was officially recognized as a non-profit Foundation (Registry No.210) on June 14, 1993. Ecuador, in whose territory the Galapagos Islands are, is a small and poor country, which often faces major problems such as flooding and landslides as well as the challenges all developing countries of the South face.

However, the Galapagos are a world-renowned United Nations World Heritage Site and the international scientific community values the islands greatly as a unique "living laboratory of evolution" (Charles Darwin realized this when he came to the Galapagos Islands for the first time and observed the complexity of the life forms that inhabited the Islands he visited on 1832) and is very keen to maintain their almost pristine condition and valuable biodiversity. This does put some strain on the indigenous residents of the Galapagos (indigenous in the sense of being Ecuadorian, began being formally colonized in 1832 when it was annexed to the Republic of Ecuador, having been formerly utilized as a confinement facility for prisoners). The Galapagos have been a recognized tourism destination since the late1960's and as such have provided a better living for Ecuadorians than the mainland. Many have been attracted there by the quality of life as well as the standard of living, and a minority make a good living from tourism. The majority of the residents, as distinct from those who work there, make their living from fishing and agriculture, with some commerce and local services. The better-paid work on the islands is often taken by foreigners, as scientists, managers and in the tourism industry.

Galapagos Income Sources

Tourism 80%Fishing 6%Cattle raising 5%Agriculture 2%Crafts 3%Trade 4%

The founders of the Albatross Foundation were equally concerned for the wildlife, the natural environment and the human inhabitants, and felt that their young people had to be given a stake in the future of the islands if the resident communities were to play a constructive rather than a destructive role. The goal of the Foundation was and remains to enable the young people to receive an education that supplements that available from the State in terms of environmental, biological and scientific subjects. Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, where the Fundación has its base, is the provincial capital of the Galapagos and the second largest community on the islands, the largest being Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island which is the center of the tourism industry. It has a population of about 9000 including 3500 families (figures from 1998, Primacies de Galapagos 2000).

Charity and projects

The Albatross Foundation was unfunded until 2000. Prior to this, the organization was formally constituted and obtained non-profit status from the Ecuadorian and US governments. Its activities were mainly concerned with raising their profile in the islands and in Ecuador and in making contacts with prospective donors, mainly in the United States. During this period they established relationships with key decision-makers in the island community, including the Asociación de Guías de Galápagos (Association of Galapagos Guides) which represents professional naturalist guides on the islands, INEFAN, the branch of government responsible for the islands, and the Galapagos National Park. They gained a certain amount of favorable media coverage in Ecuador, representing environmental issues from a concerned residents' viewpoint.

In 1992, Club Albatros, the Foundation's informal predecessor, was involved in a Government campaign to distribute educational materials about HIV/Aids and Cholera to the local population. In 1994 the Foundation developed and presented a project named "Emergency Patrol for The Marine Reserve" to The National Park Galapagos which was delayed due to financed problems within shuch entity.

In 1994 one of the officers of the Albatross Foundation was a named ICC Coordinator for the Galapagos in the "International Coastal Cleanup" run by The Ocean Conservancy (formally known as The Center for Marine Conservation) in Washington DC. This involved recruiting young people to gather refuse (trash) from the beaches and other coastal areas of Galapagos inhabited Islands and organizing for its safe disposal, carrying out local education on the project, and campaigning for a more conservationist attitude as a result of this work. Nowadays the Foundation carries on with this activity in the entire Archipelago every year with the collaboration of local entities and schools. The Foundation also played a helpful role during the Isabela Island Forest Fire (1994) and the Tanker Jessica Oil Spill. The foundation has been constantly donating educational materials shuch as books, computers & lab materials and more to several public schools in the islands. During the 1990s the officers of the Fundación Albatros developed a plan for an Educational Center on the island of San Cristóbal. The Center will comprise ten small classrooms, a fully equipped library, a computer laboratory, a Marine Life Museum and administration services.

Currently the foundation runs a pilot program in San Cristobal Island in partnership with the Ecuadorian Navys' educational facility called Lyceum Galapagos. The program focuses in teaching English to the local children of the islands with an ecological approach. Educational marine ecology programs are run every years in partnership with the University of Arizonamarker in the United Statesmarker. The foundation also recruits volunteers from all over the world to assist in the development of its' programs in exchange of a first hand experience and recognition on their respective field. The volunteer basis ranges from Higschool/ College Students to Professionals in different fields. The satisfaction of making a difference while at the same time learning to appreciate the value of education for the development of environment responsible individuals is unmatched by anything else.

Contributors

The following names have contributed or still contribute with the Albatross Foundation, not just with ideas, but financing these great ideas to make them possible: Idea Wild Foundation, The Kohlberg Foundation, The PADI Foundation, PADI Project A.W.A.R.E., The Ocean Conservancy, MW Productions, Inc., The Sierra Club, USA, The National Science Foundation, USA, The International Community Foundation, USA, The University of Willamette at Oregon, USA, The University of Arizona at Tucson, USA, Liceo Naval Galapagos and Armada Nacional del Ecuador.

References

  • Primacies de Galapagos (2000), Puerto Ayora.



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