The Charles Darwin Foundation was established in 1959 under Belgium law, the same year that the Galapagos National Park was created and the 100th anniversary of the publication of the Origin of the Species. The foundation has served as a leader in conservation for the Galapagos as well as conducting much needed educational and research work.



The Charles Darwin Research Station was created on Santa Cruz in 1964, and has contributed to the culture of the Galapagos through its programs and opportunities for scientists to study the islands. Thousands of visitors make the trek to the station each month to learn more about the fragile eco-system that is home to a shocking number of plant and animal species.

CDF exists through funds donated by private sponsors; currently the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, the Galapagos Conservatory and the Galapagos Conservation Trust contribute significant funds each year to help the foundation pay for its research and conservation efforts.

Today, the Charles Darwin Foundation is facing a crossroads and needs further funding to continue its crucial work in the Galapagos Islands. Visiting the Charles Darwin Foundation’s website provides information about its work, offers people the opportunity to make a donation, sign up for a membership that gives exclusive access to the foundation and its research, or to adopt a species that is currently being targeted.


Gravel crunches under feet as a group of tourists follows the trail up to the corral where Lonesome George once lived and to another where Super Diego – father of over one thousand Española Island giant tortoises – lives with his five mates.

In a conference room, a scientist presents her latest findings on the Blue Footed Boobie.

Down at the BioMar docks, marine biologists are preparing for an expedition to one of the islands. In another part of the world, a student logs into the Datazone to gather information for his school paper.

Who makes this all possible? The Charles Darwin Foundation does.

In 1959, conservationists along with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUNC) met in Belgium to establish the Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands (CDF). Since then, CDF has been a major player in the protection of this unique archipelago. It works hand-in-hand with the Galapagos National Park, which was created in that same year.

CDF inaugurated the Charles Darwin Research Center in 1964. Located in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, these laboratories are where scientists work and where each year thousands of tourists visit.

CDF has been a primary actor in breeding and repatriation programs, allowing the giant tortoise and land iguana to rebound from the brink of extinction.

Presently the foundation’s scientists are saving the mangrove finch. In February 2014, the first mangrove finch was born in captivity – an essential step in this species’ rescue.

CDF is also involved in education. It promotes programs in local schools and provides university scholarships to Ecuadorian students. For many decades, CDF has sponsored Galapagos’ only library, the Biblioteca G. Corley Smith, one of the world’s most complete collections on Galapagos literature.

The library’s catalogue, as well as the herbarium and museum collections – the Datazone – can be viewed on the CDF website darwinfoundation.org.

In 2013, in partnership with Galapagos National Park and Google, Galapagos 369 was launched on Google Maps. Now anyone can visit the islands from any place in the world.

CDF, as advisor to the local and national governments, helps to maintain the quarantine program (to prevent the introduction of non-native species). Along with these institutions and the national park, environment restoration projects like Proyecto Isabela have been undertaken.

Over the decades, CDF has won a number of prestigious international awards in recognition of its conservation work. Behind the scenes, its corps of international and national scientists and volunteers continues to work with Galapagos National Park to protect the fragile Islands. Meanwhile, on the forestage, thousands of tourists flock to the Charles Darwin Research Station to visit Super Diego.

Get in touch with one of our experts or request a callback they will be glad to assist you to find the best option to visit Española Island, the home of Diego, or to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station where other tortoises including Lonesome George are cared for!