Galapagos Islands Protected With Tourism Laws (VIDEO)
Getting up close and personal with the Blue-Footed Booby, the centenarian Giant Tortoise, and the Marine Iguana at the Galapagos Islands has become so popular that new regulations have been introduced to protect the unique wildlife from 170,000 visitors a year.
The World Heritage-listed archipelago was the inspiration behind Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, and has been identified by scientists as one of 20 most important marine conservation sites, according to The Guardian.
In 2007, The Telegraph reported President Rafael Correa of Ecuador declared the Galapagos at risk, and would consider measures such as suspending some tourism permits and enforcing population restrictions to relieve increasing pressures on the fragile eco-system.
"We are pushing for a series of actions to overcome the huge institutional, environmental and social crisis in the islands," Mr Correa then told the paper.
Dive boat operator Peter Hughes tells BBC News reporter John McIntyre that despite the initial negative reaction to the regulations, they had now been welcomed as necessary to conserve the wildlife for many more generations.
Increasing migration to the Islands -- Ecuadorians looking for work, tourism and over-fishing are the major human threats, according to GalapagosIslands.com. Last month, park rangers and an Ecuador navy ship seized 357 dead sharks from a fishing vessel inside the Galapagos Marine Reserve -- the largest seizure in the country's history.
Regulations that will limit vessels visiting the same site to no more than once during a 14-day period may have a impact on travelers planning to visit the islands, beginning February 1, 2012.
According to National Geographic, animals are the most exciting attraction, and they even seem curious about humans. HuffPost blogger David Mizejewski said the animals evolved without the need for a strong flight response since there is a lack of large land predators.