New York: Far from increasing the vulnerability of wildlife to predators, ecotourism actually helps conservation efforts, researchers say.
“There have been some claims that have drawn media attention, saying that nature tourism and ecotourism can hurt wildlife and can even make wildlife more vulnerable to predators and poaching,” said one of the researchers Lee Fitzgerald from Texas A&M University in the US.
“We wrote to clarify that the opposite is well-known and supported with much research; that tourism can and often does protect large landscapes and the wildlife within those landscapes,” Fitzgerald noted.
The researchers said that in many parts of the world tourism protects wildlife from poaching, which is arguably the much greater threat to wildlife. They pointed out the world’s very first national parks in the U.S. were created with tourism in mind and thousands of protected areas around the planet are at least partially justified by tourism.
I is difficult to imagine wild animals becoming so tame from their interaction with people they lose their fear of being eaten, the researchers said. In Botswana, tour operators are bringing rhinos from South Africa for release into the wild to restore populations, study co-author Amanda Stronza from Texas A&M University pointed out. And on the Mara Conservancy along the border of Kenya and Tanzania, ecotourism dollars directly fund anti-poaching measures, she noted.
The researchers explained that strong ecotourism programmes keep poachers at bay. If the shield of ecotourism goes away, animals are not poached because they are tame, it is because large areas can then be infiltrated by poachers. “We wanted to clarify this crucial point because there is no evidence to support the claim that ecotourism and nature tourism make animals vulnerable to poachers,” Fitzgerald said. The article appeared in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution.