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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Preservation of Galapagos Islands a national priority, Ecuador president says

IHT, April 10, 2007

QUITO, Ecuador: President Rafael Correa called on his Cabinet and local authorities to meet urgently to better preserve Ecuador's famed Galapagos Islands, the country's top tourist destination.

Correa's announcement Tuesday coincided with a visit by a UNESCO delegation, which is meeting with Ecuadorean authorities to determine ways to preserve the archipelago. UNESCO's World Heritage Center director warned last month of threats to the flora and fauna of the "fragile and delicate" island chain.

Correa did not specify whether government agencies would be given more money to combat the effects of tourism, human settlement, the introduction of nonnative species and other threats.

The Galapagos Islands, 625 miles (1,000 kilometers) off Ecuador's Pacific coast, were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 for their unique plant and animal life including giant tortoises, marine iguanas and blue-footed boobies. Charles Darwin's observations of the islands' finches inspired his theory of evolution.

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