Faced with ever-expanding tourism, the little nation of Palau is taking measures to protect its precious flora and fauna. Made up of some hundreds of islands in the Western Pacific, the nation has become the first in the world to ask all its visitors to sign a conservation pledge upon their arrival.
In order to gain access to the islands, tourists now have to sign a special stamp on their passports making the promise to "tread lightly, act kindly and explore mindfully."
A little corner of paradise, formed of around more than 200 pristine volcanic islands and lagoons, Palau is regarded as one of the world's best diving spots making it somewhat of a niche destination.
In recent times, however, tourism rates have exploded – by 70% between 2010 and 2016 alone – and the nation is struggling to cope with all the new arrivals. Locals have been outraged to witness travelers throwing trash on the beaches, walking on coral and moving turtles around to take pictures with them.
The 'Palau Pledge' was therefore set up to preserve the islands' rich but delicate ecosystem. It states: "I take this pledge as your guest, to protect and preserve your beautiful island home."
The archipelago is also feeling the effects of global warming as it experiences more frequent cyclones and the El Niño phenomenon. Fortunately, it has the right leader to guide it as the country's president was named a Champion of the Earth by the UN in 2015 for his pioneering Green Economy Policies.
Drafting a long list of laws aimed at protecting the country's marine life, President Tommy Remengesau Jr. is making sure Palau meets all its conservation goals. As he explained to AFP:
"We rely on our environment to survive and if our beautiful country is lost to environmental degradation, we will be the last generation to enjoy both its beauty and life-sustaining biodiversity."
Here's hoping the rest of the world can follow Palau's inspirational lead.