Endangered Species Handbook

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Vanishing Species

Earth's Worth: Page 7

     Although some abuses of the land have resulted from ecotourism, including large numbers of people who can overwhelm delicate habitats, these situations are rare and can be rectified.  Ecotourism helps far more animals and habitats than it hurts and, often in an indirect way.  An important byproduct of tourism is the protection it accords animals in the areas visited, especially outside national parks and reserves, where most wildlife is on the decline.  The presence of tourists tends to deter poachers, and in a growing number of areas, revenues accrue to local people from tourists’ use of restaurants, gift shops, taxis and other businesses.  This encourages residents to cooperate in protecting the wildlife and the environment.  This applies as much to African savannahs, as to North America or Europe.  The non-profit Eco-Tourism Society, located in North Bennington, Vermont, distributes information on responsible travel that does not result in ecological damage and respects local residents.  It recommends that tours share profits with residents.  
     Many conservation organizations now run ecotours and issue pamphlets, such as the National Audubon Society's guidelines for environmentally responsible travel, which describes dangers to specific habitats, such as coral reefs, and suggests non-intrusive viewing and tours that enhance local conservation.  Trade in local wildlife is prohibited.  The Wildlife Conservation Society has proposed that a fee from tourists be set aside for a land bank to fund national parks in Central America. 
     As ecotourism rises in its importance to national economies, whale-watchers, tropical forest visitors, coral reef divers and others will demand pristine environments with diverse wildlife.  This will be a strong force in favor of passage of strict environmental laws around the world.  Moreover, the value of wilderness increases as more and more tourists seek out undeveloped areas.  Governments should no longer consider wilderness as wasteland, but as a precious commodity.
     The economical arguments in favor of preserving the natural world are strong, but we should be equally motivated by our affinities for our fellow creatures and the natural world.  Our ties with nature are very deep and span millions of years.  Modern technology has made us forget the awe with which we once regarded the Earth and has encouraged a false sense of superiority and complacency.

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