Alejandra Ordoñez

Alejandra Ordoñez was appointed director of the Galapagos National Park late last week.

On Friday, April 10th, the Ecuadorian Environment Ministry announced that Dr. Arturo Izurieta had been removed from his duties as director of the Galapagos National Park and named Alejandra Ordoñez as his replacement.

In a public statement the ministry thanked Dr. Izurieta for his leadership and said that significant institutional achievements had been made under his watch, but did not explain why he had been replaced.

Ordoñez, who is just the second woman to hold the top post at the park, has a Master’s degree in public management, sustainability and competitiveness of tourism from the International University of Andalucia in Huelva, Spain. She previously served as the Provincial Director for the Ministry of Tourism and Director of Public Use at the Galápagos National Park, where she focused on improving conditions for tourists.

For his part, Izurieta does not seem happy about the ministry’s decision. On Saturday he said on his Facebook page that the decision was politically motivated. “Though I respect it, I do not necessarily agree with it,” he wrote.

Some of Izurieta’s Facebook friends have leveled charges of political cronyism at Environment Minister Lorena Tapia, for whom Ordoñez has served as an adviser, according to a recent story by Cecelia Alvear on The Huffington Post.

While the change seemed abrupt, it isn’t necessarily surprising. The park directorship is a high profile and highly volatile position. Between 2004 and 2007, 14 different directors and interim directors have sat at the park’s helm. As the crown jewel of Ecuador’s burgeoning tourism industry and an internationally famous World Heritage Site, the Galapagos Islands are an important part of the country’s overall economy. As tourism to the islands has boomed in recent years, the ministry’s efforts to balance environmental protection with economic development have faced plenty of national and international scrutiny.

Only time will tell if this change is a good one for the park, but at least Ordoñez seems to be well qualified for her new job.