Tourism for Conservation?

The Futurist, March-April 1990 | Go to article overview

Tourism for Conservation?


An increasing number of African nations are developing tourism as a means not only to generate scarce foreign currency but also to promote wildlife conservation, according to David Patrice Greanville, editor-at-large of The Animals' Agenda.

Poverty and rapid population growth in the Third World often compel environmental exploitation, but tourism provides native peoples with a financial stake in preserving wildlife. Greanville claims that "tourism, by injecting an element of financial self-interest in the surrounding human community, can act as a reliable shield against worse human interference with animal life, especially that leading to extinction."

Wildlife tourism is Kenya's primary source of hard currency. David Western, a biologist in East Africa with the New York Zoological Society, is convinced that, without the cash influx derived from tourism, the Masai tribesmen around Kenya's Masai Mara Game Reserve would have sold their lands to wheat farmers, thereby destroying the possibility of wildlife survival.

Tourism has proved so lucrative to the Masai that they are now pressing the authorities to allow them to build their own tourist lodges around the reserve, collecting 'toll fees' from tourists wishing to see wildlife. "The tourism boom has triggered a marked increase in the number and health of many animal herds now that humans see the animals' well-being as their own - and a steady decline in poaching," says Greanville.

In Rwanda, the mountain gorillas that naturalist Dian Fossey died to protect may actually face a more secure future without her, he suggests. Fossey, convinced that human interference would eventually wipe out the gorillas, tried to establish a severe policy of isolationism that brooked no commercialism in or around Rwanda's Parc National des Volcans. …

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