Wildlife tourism is basically the viewing of wild animals in their natural habitats. Tourism affects the ecosystem of wildlife both positively and negatively. Tourism can lead to interference and destruction of the wildlife ecosystem, leading to decrease in the population of the animals and degradation of their habitats.
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Tourists will interfere with the welfare of the wild animals through their interactions with the animals. The roads and paths that offer access to the wild animals also lead to destruction of the natural habitat of the wild animals (Claggett 1997, p.23).
Tourism can also have numerous positive effects on wildlife. Due to the huge incomes that tourism generates, authorities and local communities will aim at preserving the natural habitat of the animals for continued gains in the future. Part of the money earned from tourism can be used for conservation of endangered species and safeguarding the habitat of the wild animals through fencing (Claggett 1997, p.27).
Although wildlife tourism is common in various countries, it has negative effects on the wildlife.
Tourism is known to finance conservation efforts of wildlife
Opponents of the argument that tourism negatively affects wildlife claim that tourism in fact promotes conservation efforts of wildlife and their habitat through provision of financial aid (Bushell & Eagles 2006, p.143).
They argue that part of the revenue obtained from tourism is channelled back to conservation efforts of the wildlife like conservation of endangered species. They also argue that local communities and authorities are dedicated to conserving wildlife primarily because of tourism as most of them earn their living through tourism related activities (Bushell & Eagles 2006, p.154).
Rebuttal to the Argument That Tourism Finance Conservation Effort of Wildlife and Their Habitats
Tourism leads to destruction and interference of the wildlife’s habitat. In places with wildlife that attracts tourists, part of the wildlife’s habitat is cleared in order to pave way for construction of amenities that meet the needs of tourists like resorts (Green & Higginbottom 2001, p.37). Tourists may engage in off-road driving and walking through wildlife habitat, which leads to trampling of vegetation and death of small living creatures.
Tourism leads to disturbance of normal activities of wildlife. Tourism disrupts the feeding and breeding patterns of wildlife. Tourists move too close to animals with the aim of viewing and taking photographs, the animals become aware of the presence of humans and cannot continue with their routine activities. A study in Mexico reveal a decrease in breeding of brown pelicans by 52 to 100% in areas frequented by tourists compared to areas not visited by tourists (Eagles & Haynes 2002, p.92).
Tourists disrupt the bonding between parent and offspring. In Canada, female harp seals’ attendance to their pups reduced when tourists were present (Eagles & Haynes 2002, p.97).
Tourism activities create awareness on conservation efforts of endangered species
Opponents of the argument that tourism negatively affects wildlife claim that tourism creates awareness on conservation of endangered species. Some tourists engage in studying of the ecosystem and create awareness to raise funds for various projects aimed at conservation of the ecosystem (Edgell 2006, p.45).
Rebuttal to the Argument That Tourism Creates Awareness on Conservation Efforts of Endangered Species
Tourism activities may lead to increased vulnerability of some species to predators. Viewing of certain species of wildlife may expose them to predators leading to a decrease in their population (Edgell 2006, p.41). Certain tourism activities may scare away wildlife from their habitat. In Kenya, increased observation of cheetahs drives them away from their habitat into community farms (Green & Higginbottom 2001, p.27).
Tourism increases cases of poaching and game hunting. Poachers masquerading as tourists gain access to wildlife that have body parts with high monetary value like elephant tasks. Controlling poaching becomes difficult and expensive (Green & Higginbottom 2001, p.23). Tourists also contribute to decreased population of wildlife through activities like game hunting and sport fishing. The effects can be severe without proper regulation of these activities.
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The growing practice of ecotourism offers great benefits to wildlife
Opponents of the argument that tourism negatively affects wildlife claim that with the increase in the practice of ecotourism, greater care is taken to educate tourists of the need for preserving wildlife and their habitat (Boo 1990, p.87).
Rebuttal of the Argument That Ecotourism Offers Benefits To Wildlife
Tourism activities like noise and feeding of wildlife affects behaviour and welfare of wildlife (Mieczkowski 1995, p.64). In the Galopolos islands, artificial feeding led to disruption of breeding patterns of iguanas (Lascuráin 1996, p.99). Noise generated by motor boats and engines of motor vehicles as tourists move closer to the animals tend to disturb feeding and drinking patterns of wildlife (Newsome & Moore 2005, p.75).
Tourism leads to decreased pollution of the wildlife habitat. Tourists lead to pollution of the habitat through littering and noise pollution, which tend to scare wild animals. The use of vehicles and motor boats leads to further pollution of the environment (Lascuráin 1996, p.97). Burning firewood for providing warmth in resorts leads to environmental pollution.
Wildlife tourism is a major source of revenue for countries in Africa and South American countries. However without proper coordination, it can negatively impact on the wildlife and their habitat. For sustainable tourism, structures should be put in place to minimise the negative effects of tourism to wildlife. Efforts to educate tourists on conserving wildlife should be practiced.
Boo, E 1990, Ecotourism: the potentials and pitfalls, World Wildlife Fund, Washington D.C.
Bushell, R & Eagles, F 2006, Tourism and protected areas benefits beyond boundaries, CABI Pub, Wallingford.
Claggett, H D 1997, Wildlife conservation, H W Wilson Co, New York.
Eagles, F & Haynes, C 2002, Sustainable tourism in protected areas: guidelines for planning and management, IUCN the World Conservation Union, Gland, Switzerland.
Edgell, D L 2006, Managing sustainable tourism: a legacy for the future, Haworth Hospitality Press, New York.
Green R, & Higginbottom, K, 2001, The negative effects of wildlife tourism on wildlife, CRC for Sustainable Tourism, Gold Coast, Qld.
Lascuráin, H 1996, Tourism, ecotourism, and protected areas: the state of nature-based tourism around the world and guidelines for its development, IUCN, Gland.
Mieczkowski, Z 1995, Environmental issues of tourism and recreation, University Press of America, Lanham, Md.
Newsome, D & Moore, S 2005, Wildlife Tourism, Multilingual Matters, Clevedon.