Visiting the Islands feels familiar, in that it is like being with an old friend or grandparent – safe yet different – but because they are in an area of such vastness, their loneliness is palpable. Like the British Isles were in the ‘good old days’ is what attracts many residents – how they like to remember the UK was when they were kids.
Captured by a talented team of photographers, Uniquely Falklands is an affectionate snapshot of the inimitable Falkland Islands, featuring both Islanders and members of the military community. Colin Roberts CVO Governor of the Falklands 2014
The English naturalist and geologist Charles Darwin visited the Falkland Islands in the 1830s to collect information on geology, flora and fauna: his research would later influence and inform his work on evolutionary theory. Sealers and whalers established successful industries there in the late eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, but few people back in the UK had heard of this British Overseas Territory, made up of over 750 tiny islands far away in the South Atlantic Ocean, before April 2, 1982, when Argentina claimed sovereignty and invaded. With reportedly only 68 Royal Marines and 12 sailors based there at the time, the Argentinians had no problem in gaining control, and at 09:25 that morning, the then British Governor, Rex Hunt, surrendered the Islands to Argentina. South Georgia was captured by the Argentinians the following day, and the rest, they say, is history.
Relatively unspoilt by human intervention and famous for its abundance and variety of flora and fauna, the Falkland Islands are heaven for any wildlife enthusiast. To see birds and animals living unfettered, in their natural habitat, where they now have ownership of their habitat is both rare and a privilege.
Of course, this wasn’t always the case, but – since the formation of Falklands Conservation over 25 years ago, legal intervention and global interest in studying and protecting rare and unique ecosystems, dwindling and rare species – much of the indigenous and other flora and fauna is now protected.
Protection and conservation is an on-going challenge as the Islands develop. Vegetation and wildlife face many threats from climate change, commercial fisheries, a developing hydrocarbons industry, over-grazing, disturbance of breeding sites, external disease, invasive species and of course, a recurrent conundrum – the visitors.
Wildlife and ecotourism are not only well-established in the Falklands, but economically important. Work is in progress to introduce policies that will help mitigate threats and develop opportunities. The Falkland Islands State of the Environment Report 2008 documents the most-up-to-date and comprehensive knowledge of the environment – its geology, meteorology, oceanography and biology – on land and at sea, and has been used to inform some of those policies. The Falkland Islands Government continues to develop the infrastructure to support and sustain conservation, as well as develop burgeoning industries.