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Does less travel means less protection for wild sites? (1 Viewer)

bonxie2003

Going for the One
United Kingdom
More and more we hear of the damage that long haul flights are doing to the environment. I understand this argument but as birders we need to consider the possible ramifications. I fear that a lot of the “most in need of protection” bird reserves around the world will lose their protected status if birding tourists and tour companies stop visiting these sites and giving the required financial support. Sadly I’m not rich enough nor generous enough to decide to stay at home while donating the costs I would have paid to the local organisations. I, for one, will continue to travel to Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Sri Lanka etc etc etc if I can.
 

THE_FERN

Well-known member
In short no. The majority of ecotourism does nothing to protect the sites it visits. The money from the tourism does not go to local people and there is no incentive for protection. Even when local people levy a fee they then continue to destroy the site regardless (Iquitos, flor del cafe etc, peru).

Protection only really comes from national initiatives where national government makes a proper effort to preserve things (Argentina etc). Those efforts are independent of international tourism.

Possibly the only exceptions are countries like Kenya which are highly dependent on tourism and where general tourist interest is so high that there's a large and constant flow.
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
In short no. The majority of ecotourism does nothing to protect the sites it visits. The money from the tourism does not go to local people and there is no incentive for protection. Even when local people levy a fee they then continue to destroy the site regardless (Iquitos, flor del cafe etc, peru).

Protection only really comes from national initiatives where national government makes a proper effort to preserve things (Argentina etc). Those efforts are independent of international tourism.

Possibly the only exceptions are countries like Kenya which are highly dependent on tourism and where general tourist interest is so high that there's a large and constant flow.
So that list could potentially include Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Namibia, South Africa, Madagascar, India, Sri Lanka....

We have also seen changes in attitude to large carnivores in e.g. Finland where it is recognised that you can't both shoot them willy-nilly and attract people to watch them because they are relaxed at baits, whereas Spain persists in trying to hunt and tour and consequently is a less attractive destination for the latter. Even where eco-tourism doesn't pay direct fees the local economy benefits from accommodation, supply chain, jobs.

In areas where those jobs are near subsistence level then when they are taken away by e.g. pandemic restrictions, the system breaks down quickly. Result: poaching up, encroachment up, pastoral incursions up.....

Plus, "the majority" means "in short, yes", because it is not none. Marginal gains are still gains.

But I assume you will tour no longer, the way you feel.

John
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
In areas where those jobs are near subsistence level then when they are taken away by e.g. pandemic restrictions, the system breaks down quickly. Result: poaching up, encroachment up, pastoral incursions up.....

Plus, "the majority" means "in short, yes", because it is not none. Marginal gains are still gains.

But I assume you will tour no longer, the way you feel.

John
For sites to continue to receive protection, official or otherwise, benefits need to be broadly spread. If not, you end up with a situation where a few people are making a lot of money (Yothin at the Gurney's Pitta site for example) and nobody else derives anything tangible which resuts in tensions. The example I gave of Yothin, saw hime spreading the gospel to subsistence farmers, from his 4x4 with c£10k worth of optics on display which didn't go down well and saw him on the end of numerous threats of violence.
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
For sites to continue to receive protection, official or otherwise, benefits need to be broadly spread. If not, you end up with a situation where a few people are making a lot of money (Yothin at the Gurney's Pitta site for example) and nobody else derives anything tangible which resuts in tensions. The example I gave of Yothin, saw hime spreading the gospel to subsistence farmers, from his 4x4 with c£10k worth of optics on display which didn't go down well and saw him on the end of numerous threats of violence.
And that's precisely the point. Locals need to be invested in the success of the enterprise and to see a future for it so that they also have one.

John
 

THE_FERN

Well-known member
So that list could potentially include Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Namibia, South Africa, Madagascar, India, Sri Lanka....
It's certainly not true in either Madagascar or sri Lanka, 2 places I've been to from this list. There, habitat preservation/destruction is independent of foreign tourists, as is any habitat preservation.
Even where eco-tourism doesn't pay direct fees the local economy benefits from accommodation, supply chain, jobs.
Usually there is no direct or perceived link between ecotourism and ancillary jobs. Birdwatchers will continue to visit places even as they degrade, and ecotourism is very rarely the reason for setting up hotels etc in the first place (normally it's the other way around: because there happens to be a hotel there, birders stay there).
But I assume you will tour no longer, the way you feel
... Don't think that follows at all from my reply, does it? My point is habitat destruction is essentially independent of ecotourism. (In some sense it's a good thing that tourism isn't the major force because it's so fickle, even when there's no pandemic).

Actually, my attitude is see it while you can! It's obvious that as economic development occurs, biodiversity disappears. Look at USA, UK for example (both countries with well established ecotourism)
 

jurek

Well-known member
Yes, and it is happening as we speak.

Many tropical reserves are now living on borrowed time. They are in debt after 2 years of no tourists due to the Covid restrictions, and cannot survive much longer. Now it increasingly looks that tourists will not come for another season.

Possibly the only exceptions are countries like Kenya which are highly dependent on tourism and where general tourist interest is so high that there's a large and constant flow.

Far from 'exceptions' , foreign tourism kept alive all savanna animals in East Africa, most of South Africa, reserves for mountain gorillas, Galapagos, Costa Rica, Madagascar, and a large number of smaller reserves created for single endemic sites. From top of my head.

Local ornithological societies in the tropics are usually too small to significantly support conservation (and many of their members indirectly benefit from tourism, too). By the time they would grow to the level of, say, Birdlife in Britain or ABA, most habitat and species in the tropics will be already gone. Local tourism rarely generates similar funds, often there are day visits or sponsored visits like schoolchildren tours which don't generate much money. Or rich locals are interested in a standard nature damaging tourism (a party hotel instead of a rainforest trek).

If tourists don't come, much of biodiversity will be lost long before (if) climate change would finish them. And the loss of forests etc. in these reserves will probably faster the climate change anyway. By the way, the biggest threat may not be the ideological singling out long-distance aviation as a supposedly unneeded CO2 producer, but the increasing poverty in the middle class in Western countries.

BTW, another thing will be ripple effects of reduced travel on domestic birdwatching. Many reserves in Europe or the USA also significantly depend on money and support of tourists from far parts of the same countries. And if all traveling birders and twitchers are gone, the local birdlife societies will have significantly less money. And the remaining members will have reduced interest in protecting wildlife in far-off countries they will never see. They will see their duty to protect nature as creating a local reserve for their local suburban birds, not the exotic rainforests or savannas. Out of sight, out of mind.
 
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kb57

Well-known member
Europe
Surely the answer is we need both eco-tourism to provide a financial rationale for conservation, and government support to do the big stuff like preserving large tracts of land which few tourists might visit.
Government support for conservation is more likely when there is an economic incentive, and eco-tourism is one way to provide that.
I'm a bit less pessimistic than @jurek about the potential of local birders to effect change - tourists might provide an important funding source, but the most valuable thing is the rise of a birding culture in many countries. When I travelled in India in the early 80s there really weren't any local birders to be seen, local people didn't seem to have much interest in nature - now, judging by the number of Indian birders on Twitter, things have changed a lot. I agree we are racing against time though before that interest can be turned into a political force, and in many countries the economic push of foreign birding tourism will continue to have a vital role.
I think there are steps which birders can take to maximise the good they do with long-haul travel though, like carefully considering where their money is going - to a local tour company or guides, to local nature reserves by booking direct, or back to the accounts of a UK or USA based tour company. But it would be sad if we pull back on our international travel out of concern for its climate impact, when we know that vast numbers of tourists will be heading back to the beaches of Mexico or Dubai without a second thought.
 

DMW

Well-known member
In short no. The majority of ecotourism does nothing to protect the sites it visits. The money from the tourism does not go to local people and there is no incentive for protection. Even when local people levy a fee they then continue to destroy the site regardless (Iquitos, flor del cafe etc, peru).

Protection only really comes from national initiatives where national government makes a proper effort to preserve things (Argentina etc). Those efforts are independent of international tourism.

Possibly the only exceptions are countries like Kenya which are highly dependent on tourism and where general tourist interest is so high that there's a large and constant flow.
This completely ignores the large and growing number of privately owned reserves, especially in the Neotropics, which are heavily or even entirely dependent on tourism revenue, and the many community forests where the local community protects the forest and its wildlife at least in part for the tourism money generated.

To airily state that national governments should be responsible for conservation is entirely perverse when the reality is that so many do little or nothing to prevent, and in many cases actively encourage, destruction of natural habitats.
 

THE_FERN

Well-known member
To airily state that national governments should be responsible for conservation
...is entirely perverse

I didn't airily state this, although I do believe that national governments should be responsible for protection, and that they offer the only option for long(ish) term protection in most cases. Even then it's not guaranteed: you only need a Trump to reverse it. The reason it has to come from the state is that eventually there will come a time when—even for the most lucrative ecosites like the Serengeti or wherever—alternative uses for the land would generate more financial gain and so there will be a strong incentive for destruction. In those circumstances, only Governments acting from non-financial motives ["the public good"] are likely to be able to withstand the pressure. Whether those governments are offering protection is another matter entirely: I know of none [with possible exception of Bolsonaro] which promote destruction as a stated aim. Instead most pay lip service to conservation. [So "perverse" is arguably completely the wrong word].

Of course the economic imperative for destruction is already there in most places. Protection which relies on private individuals must be much more tenuous: changes in individual circumstances, a death in the family etc can remove the safeguards overnight. [This may prove to be true for the ranch surrounding Sagala Lodge in Kenya where we recently stayed: the death of the owner has prompted a legal fight for ownership amongst his heirs. Its future as a reserve is not assured.]

Ultimately, I am very pessimistic about the future for biodiversity and so try to see as much of it as I can before it goes. [Unfortunately all the stats are with me on this...]
 

jurek

Well-known member
South Africa is another country where private reserves directly caring to foreign tourists are very prominent. There, opposite to THE_FERN, other land use (agriculture) can generate finite income, but foreign tourism can generate more funds and has further big potential to grow.

One might entertain to draw a cash flow of money from different sources flowing to saving different birds. Just as it is possible to count how many species of world's birds are threatened by rainforest destruction or introduced predators. In the same way one could visualize how many species are saved by money from ecotourism vs government funds vs direct foreign donations. I think the result would be that the loss of long-haul flights and long-distance birder tourists would endanger several 100s of bird species at the least. And, as I written, even more important would be secondary effects: loss of tourism from the whole national economy would mean less government funds. Lack of birding travelers acting as advocates would mean less direct donations from birding organizations. And others I did not think about.

I still remember the time when organizations like RSPB cared about birds at home, but very little about abroad. Certainly, conservationists don't want to go back to these times.
 

THE_FERN

Well-known member
South Africa is another country where private reserves directly caring to foreign tourists are very prominent.

One might entertain to draw a cash flow of money from different sources flowing to saving different birds. Just as it is possible to count how many species of world's birds are threatened by rainforest destruction or introduced predators. In the same way one could visualize how many species are saved by money from ecotourism vs government funds vs direct foreign donations. I think the result would be that the loss of long-haul flights and long-distance birder tourists would endanger several 100s of bird species at the least. And, as I written, even more important would be secondary effects: loss of tourism from the whole national economy would mean less government funds. Lack of birding travelers acting as advocates would mean less direct donations from birding organizations.

I still remember the time when organizations like RSPB cared about birds at home, but very little about abroad. Certainly, conservationists don't want to go back to these times.
My personal experience of world birders is that few spend much on conservation, certainly not in the countries they visit. Although I know many people who would "happily" spend $5k on a trip, they would not donate an equivalent amount to conservation. Of course the pros/cons calc for international travel is finely balanced. Air travel has to be one of the more destructive activities [emissions, runways, fossil fuel extraction, waste plastic etc etc]. And then there's the question of impact of tourists on habitat, disturbance etc.

Yes there are some bird-only private reserves but in most places the number of visitors simply won't provide the necessary returns. I remember visiting a reserve in Ecuador which was starting to grow coffee because the tourism receipts weren't sufficient [this was in 2010]. Much the same is true for birding guides. Many have to turn to second jobs because the returns simply aren't enough.
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
My personal experience of world birders is that few spend much on conservation, certainly not in the countries they visit. Although I know many people who would "happily" spend $5k on a trip, they would not donate an equivalent amount to conservation. Of course the pros/cons calc for international travel is finely balanced. Air travel has to be one of the more destructive activities [emissions, runways, fossil fuel extraction, waste plastic etc etc]. And then there's the question of impact of tourists on habitat, disturbance etc.

Yes there are some bird-only private reserves but in most places the number of visitors simply won't provide the necessary returns. I remember visiting a reserve in Ecuador which was starting to grow coffee because the tourism receipts weren't sufficient [this was in 2010]. Much the same is true for birding guides. Many have to turn to second jobs because the returns simply aren't enough.
Perhaps some, like me, have seen the excesses of the likes of WWF? I remember at Cat Tien in Vietnam, a very big house had been built on the reserve for a husband and wife research team who were to stay there for a couple of years, after that, it was to be given over, probably to a corrupt, local official.

People are fed up of seeing their money wasted and it's not only in conservation but more widely, charity generally, is suffering from the perception that monies donated, are not being used as expected.
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
Yes there are some bird-only private reserves but in most places the number of visitors simply won't provide the necessary returns. I remember visiting a reserve in Ecuador which was starting to grow coffee because the tourism receipts weren't sufficient [this was in 2010]. Much the same is true for birding guides. Many have to turn to second jobs because the returns simply aren't enough.
I think you may find that originally, guiding jobs, were the second job.

What is wrong with having to take a second job if one doesn't pay well enough, none birding people in the US and other places, often have to do it. I personally, get sick of hearing the argument, when people complain of high guide fees that 'it's a short season'. Try asking your boss if you can work 3 days a week for double the pay and see what answer you get, I'll bet the second part is 'off'.
 
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JLRamos

Active member
Spain
There is another beneficial aspect of nature tourism in the preservation of natural areas and species, and that has not yet been mentioned here.

Here, in Spain, at one time the country was very far from the development of other European countries, the declaration as protected areas of two of the great natural parks; Doñana and Monfrague, it would not have been possible if those who promoted it had not had the support and international pressure of the scientific and ornithological community that, in one way or another, knew these spaces and their value.

In the case of Monfrague, in Extremadura, it was even possible to block forestry planning promoted by the state and aimed at the paper industry, which had a greater short-term economic effect than the conservation of this space. Mobilizing the local population and the international community was fundamental

What I want to point out is that ornithological tourism can also participate in the enhancement of these spaces and, although this is not always the case, generate synergies with the local population for their protection.

JLuis
 

DMW

Well-known member
...is entirely perverse

I didn't airily state this, although I do believe that national governments should be responsible for protection, and that they offer the only option for long(ish) term protection in most cases. Even then it's not guaranteed: you only need a Trump to reverse it. The reason it has to come from the state is that eventually there will come a time when—even for the most lucrative ecosites like the Serengeti or wherever—alternative uses for the land would generate more financial gain and so there will be a strong incentive for destruction. In those circumstances, only Governments acting from non-financial motives ["the public good"] are likely to be able to withstand the pressure. Whether those governments are offering protection is another matter entirely: I know of none [with possible exception of Bolsonaro] which promote destruction as a stated aim. Instead most pay lip service to conservation. [So "perverse" is arguably completely the wrong word].

Of course the economic imperative for destruction is already there in most places. Protection which relies on private individuals must be much more tenuous: changes in individual circumstances, a death in the family etc can remove the safeguards overnight. [This may prove to be true for the ranch surrounding Sagala Lodge in Kenya where we recently stayed: the death of the owner has prompted a legal fight for ownership amongst his heirs. Its future as a reserve is not assured.]

Ultimately, I am very pessimistic about the future for biodiversity and so try to see as much of it as I can before it goes. [Unfortunately all the stats are with me on this...]
Don't you see the obvious fallacy in your argument? On the one hand you say that long term protection can only come from the state, and on the other that a change in head of government can reverse protection on a whim? Meanwhile, a privately-owned reserve is largely immune from changes in government. Many such reserves are owned by trusts or foundations with boards of trustees who ensure the reserve is managed on accordance with its conservation goals, and they are often also registered as private protected areas with additional statutory protection.

It's all very well having fantasy ideals about what governments should do, but the reality is that they don't, and dismissing the private / community sector and associated need for eco-tourism revenue is willful blindness to reality.

You mentioned Madagascar as not having any examples of tourists protecting the environment. Did you consider whether the patch of spiny forest you presumably visited near Ifaty would exist if the Moosa family wasn't making money from tour groups?
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
Don't you see the obvious fallacy in your argument? On the one hand you say that long term protection can only come from the state, and on the other that a change in head of government can reverse protection on a whim? Meanwhile, a privately-owned reserve is largely immune from changes in government. Many such reserves are owned by trusts or foundations with boards of trustees who ensure the reserve is managed on accordance with its conservation goals, and they are often also registered as private protected areas with additional statutory protection.
It's also probably true, that many such places are so expensive, as to be off limits to many / most, I'm probably thinking mainly of Amazonia.
 

THE_FERN

Well-known member
Don't you see the obvious fallacy in your argument? On the one hand you say that long term protection can only come from the state, and on the other that a change in head of government can reverse protection on a whim?
The fact that governmental protection might be or can be removed does not make the argument fallacious or wrong. I contend that long term protection can only come from some body like the state. Private ownership is (or should be) too labile. NGOs are (or can be) more stable but they lack the ability to enact and enforce legislation to protect their charges.

Doubtless there are good examples of private ownership. However, it's obvious that these cannot outweigh or compensate for a lack of official protection. We will be sadly disappointed if we are relying on private ownership to save nature. (Actually, we'll be sadly disappointed anyway but that's not the point.)
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia

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