November 20, 1942. Mr. M. L. Leap, Department of State, Washington, D.C. Dear Mr. Leap: Occupancy of the Galápagos Islands by the armed forces of our country necessitates prompt consideration of measures for the protection of the peculiar fauna of these islands. Many species found here are encountered nowhere else in the World, and if they are destroyed there will be definite loss to science and the human interest as well as much resentment on the part of Ecuadorian and other authorities. I am forwarding herewith a brief memorandum convering this matter with the suggestion that it be brought to the attention of the proper authorities in the Army and the Navy. It is important that action be prompt. Sincerely yours, A. Wetmore, Assistant Secretary
M E M O R A N D U M November 20, 1942. In the program of the State Department for Cooperation with the American Republics one of the items carried for the Smithsonian Institution has been concerned with the conservation of flora and fauna in the New World on an international basis. Under this, plans have been made for a laboratory in the Galápagos Islands to be used as a center for studies concerned with conservation, a matter of value and one of which the government of Ecuador is definitely interested. Recently through the present war situation the project has been held in abeyance. It is inevitable that necessary development for military purposes in the Galápagos Islands will impose considerable change, and will bring heavy pressure upon the peculiar species of plant and animal life found there. For one thing many men will be brought to the islands which unitl now have had few or no human inhabitants. The animal life of the Galápagos has had few enemies on land so that birds and other kinds are fearless to an extraordinary degree. A number of the species have only a small number of individuals and are restricted to limited areas so that unless they are protected thei will be exterminated in a very short time. It is recognised that disturbances through construction and
-2- actual occupancy are unavoidable, but it is important and necessary that all hunting for game or sport, and all other unnecessary molestation of the wild life be controlled and prohibited by the military authorities. There should also be control of the introduction of dogs, cats, or other animals that may prey on the native fauna. Officials of the Eduadorian government are seriously concerned with the welfare of the wild life of the islands, and have so indicated through their adoption of the recent Convention for Nature Protection and Wild Life Preservation in the Western Hemisphere to which the United States and other American Republics are now signatories. To be specific the Galápagos Islands are the home of giant tortoises found nowhere else in the world, of a species of fur seal, of a peculiar penguin, of a flightless cormorant, of large lizards or iguanas, one kind living in water and the other on land, and of numerous birds of small and medium size, all of which are known throughout the world for their peculiarities. The snakes found in the islands are not poisonous and none of the mammals, birds or reptiles native there are harmful. Should any be destroyed needlessly much resentment inevitably will arise that will have reaction in other matters of importance in negotiations between the United States and other countries, particularly the other American republics. Immediate action is urged. A. Wetmore, Assistant Secretary, Smithsonian Institution.