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The Galapagos Sea Lion is an endemic species of the archipelago. From his relative, the California Sea Lion, the species separated already about 2.5 million years ago. Around 50, 000 animals now live in the area of ​​the archipelago and can be found everywhere. (Photo: Hans-Peter Reinthaler)

Der Galapagos-Seelöwe ist eine endemische Art der Inselgruppe. Von seinem Verwandten, dem Kalifornischen Seelöwen, trennte sich die Art schon vor rund 2, 5 Millionen Jahren. Rund 50.000 Tiere leben inzwischen auf dem Gebiet der Inselgruppe und sind dort überall anzutreffen. (Foto: Hans-Peter Reinthaler)

The Galapagos Sea Lion is an endemic species of the archipelago. From his relative, the California Sea Lion, the species separated already about 2.5 million years ago. Around 50, 000 animals now live in the area of ​​the archipelago and can be found everywhere. (Photo: Hans-Peter Reinthaler)

The giant turtles from the Galapagos Islands are probably the world's most famous endemic animals, so those that occur only in one place. However, many other species exist only on the approximately 130 islands in the eastern Pacific - about 40 percent of the species living there. One of the reasons for this is the extraordinary location of the islands.

When Spanish sailors discovered the archipelago in the 16th century, they were surprised. About 1000 kilometers from the coast of South America they had no longer expected walk-in land. The lonely location of the volcanic islands also made it a popular destination for scientists from Charles Darwin to Thor Heyerdal. Even today, with their diverse flora and fauna, they are an important target for biologists.

Tourism or nature conservation?

Because of this great importance, 97 percent of the land and 99 percent of the water surface are protected. Unesco also honored the Galapagos Islands in 1979 with a place on the World Heritage list. Tourism and intensive fishing, however, meant that the area from 2007 on the red list of UNESCO landed. Only by strict conditions for tourism and population this status could be revised again. Nevertheless, many animal and plant species are threatened with extinction.

The photos in our picture gallery show a small part of the diverse wildlife of the Galapagos Islands. All of them were taken by the biologist Hans-Peter Reinthaler and are part of the exhibition "Galápagos im Bild" in the Nature Museum Lucerne. It can be seen there in connection with the special exhibition "Galápagos" of the Zoological Museum of the University of Zurich.

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