#SaveDarwin campaign raises $1.5 million

The Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) is back in business! Not that they ever actually went out of business, but things were looking grim back in December, when the venerable Galapagos institution announced that it was facing a massive year-end budgetary shortfall and the prospect of closing its doors for good.

Charles Darwin Foundation Giant Tortoises

The Charles Darwin Foundation has played a critical role in giant tortoise conservation.

On Thursday, February 5th, the CDF announced in an open letter to its General Assembly that it had raised more than $1.5 million through its #SaveDarwin campaign, which it launched in response to the crisis. CDF Executive Director Swen Lorenz writes that $1.15 million of the total came through a grant to the International Community Foundation from The Leona M and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and the Lindblad-National Geographic Fund. An additional $400,000 was raised through donations from hundreds of supporters from around the world.

Charles Darwin Foundation diver studies the Galapagos Marine Reserve.

The Charles Darwin Foundation was instrumental in the creation of the Galapagos Marine Reserve.

In December, we reported that the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association (full disclosure — I am the director of IGTOA) had launched its own fundraising campaign in support of #SaveDarwin. IGTOA, with support from an anonymous donor, committed $50,000 to double match every donation it received, up to $25,000. IGTOA announced last week that it had raised just over $25,000 through donations from individuals and its member companies and would be handing over more than $75,000 to the CDF as a result.

Charles Darwin Foundation Galapagos specimens collection.

The CDF maintains the world’s most extensive collection of Galapagos specimens.

The CDF operates the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS),  a major tourist draw on the island of Santa Cruz, which has played a pivotal role in conservation and scientific research in the Galapagos Islands since it was founded 50 years ago.

The trouble started for the CDF last summer, when municipal authorities on Santa Cruz forced the CDF to close its newly renovated and expanded gift shop over a disagreement about the type of merchandise the shop was allowed to sell. Shopkeepers in Puerto Ayora, where the research station and its gift shop are located, had complained that competition from the  shop was hurting their business. The soaring cost of running the research station further compounded the problem.

Charles Darwin Foundation controlling invasive species.

CDF scientists have been working to control harmful invasive species and restore endemic plants and animals.

Lorenz says that the funds “will be used to determine the right path forward to building a sustainable funding model for our organization, while developing a stronger and more strategic relationship with the Government of Ecuador.”

The CDF is also apparently working on an agreement with local authorities about its gift shop with the goal to reopen it soon.

So a major crisis has been averted and the the CDF is once again on firm financial footing, at least for the time being. This is great news for anyone who cares about protecting the remarkable flora and fauna of the Galapagos archipelago.