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Issue #101, August 2003


1) Galapagos 25th Anniversary
2) Galapagos Sea Lions
3) Galapagos Amazing Facts
4) September's Natural Events

1) 25th Anniversary Galapagos Islands: Earth's First World Heritage Site

Back in 1978, the UNESCO declared the Galapagos Islands, a World Heritage Site. It is its 25th Anniversary, and in this coming up early September we will proudly celebrate such important declaration.

Now, why are some places on Earth, so beautiful, but not declared? Why are some declared? The UNESCO has a very clear criterion for this.

Galapagos passes the four suggested criterion, a distinction few places in this planet have earned. Every year, several places and properties on Earth are proposed to enter the list of Heritage Sites (some Natural, some Cultural).

Not all make it. Those that make the selected list of Natural World Heritage Sites have been chosen under these considerations:

  • Be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth's history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features.
  • Be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals.
  • Contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.
  • Contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.

The UNESCO briefly describes Galapagos like this:
"Situated in the Pacific Ocean some 1,000 km from the South American continent, these nineteen islands and the surrounding marine reserve have been called a unique 'living museum and showcase of evolution'.

Located at the confluence of three ocean currents, the Galápagos are a 'melting pot' of marine species Ongoing seismic and volcanic activity reflects the processes that formed the Islands.

These processes, together with the extreme isolation of the islands, led to the development of unusual animal life - such as the land iguana, the giant tortoise and the many types of finches - that inspired Charles Darwin's theory of evolution following his visit in 1835."

2) Galapagos Sea Lions: Pupping Season Delights Guests

After a similar-to-human pregnancy, female sea lions have started to give birth throughout the Galapagos Islands. This started about a month ago, with the first pups of the season seen around James and Fernandina Islands.

Most colonies are now near peak season, and this will go on until mid October. Their reproduction is truly amazing: about a week or two after giving birth, females enter estrus stage and become pregnant almost immediately.

Then, one of the most amazing physiological adaptations, happens: delayed implantation. This means that the zygote (pre-embryonic stage) will not grow until implanted in the uterus wall. Of course, is not the female who deliberately decides when this is to happen, but hormonal changes are triggered by environmental factors like food availability, climatic changes, etc.

How about that? The purpose of such reproductive adaptation is to synchronize the birth of a newborn with the most food available for a Galapagos marine mammal (the dry season).

As the first hours of life continue, pups will find the source of mother's milk. The fat-rich milk will nourish the newborn quite efficiently in order to develop blubber and to add nutritional value to its needs.

Life in the Galapagos can never be dull, change is everywhere, and everywhere changes continuously.

Read More About Galapagos Sea Lions

3) Galapagos Amazing Facts

  • Galapagos water temperaures can vary from season to season about 10°C (20°F)
  • Current human population: about 20,000 inhabitants distributed in 5 Islands
  • The "blowhole" at Espanola Island can shoot jets of sea water up to 25 metres (83 feet).
  • About 23% of Galapagos fishes are endemic to the Islands (found nowhere else!)
  • About 42 % of Galapagos plants are endemic to the Islands.
See More Galapagos Islands Facts Here

4) September's Natural Events... What is Happening Now in Galapagos?

  • Peak of the Dry Season. Days may present the fine "garua" layer at early hours. Plenty of wind. Open seas may show heavy surge.
  • Air temperature at night may be as low as 19°C (66°F). Consider wind-chill factor.
  • Most seabird species are active at their nesting areas. Several stages of life-rearing can be seen specially at Hood, Tower and Isabela Islands.
  • Penguins are incredibly active, specially at Bartolome, Fernandina and Isabela Islands. Snorkeling alongside them is fantastic.
  • Galapagos Sea Lions are in their pupping months. Plenty of territorial activity by both males and females.

Don't Forget: In Galapagos, from August through November bring a wet suit, parka windbreaker, long pants (light cotton), lots of film, binoculars, and lots of enthusiasm!

More About Galapagos

Galapagos Iguana

Galapagos Hawk

Galapagos Geology

Best Galapagos Hotel

See you in the next issue of Galapagos Expedition ad hoping you visit the Galapagos Islands soon...


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