Ecotourism-good or bad?

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Ecotourism-good or bad?

Postby Juscz » Tue Aug 19, 2008 4:17 pm

Hi jimshu,

thanks for your reply. How interesting that Mali is more accommodating with preservation of their desert elephants than is Namibia. Perhaps some of this stems from the fact that Namibia already has Etosha Park with a large population of protected elephants. Thus, elephants are more 'taken for granted' in Namibia? Maybe not, but just a thought.

I think I'd rather see those Mali elephants (I guess simply because savannah elephants are rarer in West Africa than in southern and East Africa). I looked over the GAP itineraries for Mali and both look very good. The trips seem to be of a more culturally-oriented character and less heavy on the wildlife. On that point, I do wish that the Mali safaris also included the opportunity to see those elephants in the desert. Maybe the herd's/herds' being so nomadic makes it impossible to track them down with any certainty and thus they are appropriately not mentioned on a safari itinerary lest folks' expectations be led astray.

And speaking of West Africa and elephants, the West African country Ivory Coast/Cote d'Ivoire was named after the ivory trade that was once very prominent there. This indicates that many elephants once resided in West Africa. Now, were those primarily savannah elephants (which have large tusks that are less dense and therefore of lower ivory quality) or were they forest elephants (which, like the Asian elephants, have shorter but denser tusks that is of a higher ivory grade)?

Certainly that whole southern, costal region of West Africa held (and in many areas still holds) significant tropical rainforest habitat which I would guess would favor the forest elephant (which is about 2/3rds the size of the savannah species and lives in the forest, as the name would suggest).

So here's the deal. If the forest elephants were the primary West African source of ivory (back in the old hunting days of say the 19th century), how did they track and kill them in sufficiently large amounts to earn the name of 'Ivory Coast'? You see, forest elephants are very elusive.

There's a guy (see link at end of this paragraph) working in Ghana's Kakum National Park (a regular rainforest habitat) to study these forest elephants with a team made up of folks from Ghana, Ivory Coast/Cote d'Ivoire, and Mali. They are all conducting a population survey to determine the size of the forest elephant population (which resides in central and West Africa... it may make up only 1/3rd of the total elephant population [both the forest and savannah species included] on the entire African continent). Over the years of study, the group leader claims he has only actually seen the forest elephants for certain on about four different occasions.

http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/jour ... 1&SRETRY=0

Assuming that the forest elephants were the main, historical source of ivory in this part of Africa, those modern sighting figures for these animals don't imply that the Ivory Coast was abounding in easily-obtained tusks and they also don't imply that the name 'Ivory Coast'/'Cote d'Ivoire' was easily earned.

So what does this mean with regard to the GAP traveler who takes, speaking hypothetically, the future (if ever offered) trip to Ghana, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, or, if it ever becomes safe enough again, Cote d'Ivoire?

You've got it.

Don't expect to see those forest elephants easily. And if you do see them, consider yourself very fortunate.

And I understand that those rainforest-dwelling, lowland gorillas are no simple thing to spot either (in fact, they may be even more reclusive and shy than the forest elephants... the experts recently claimed that there may be about 125,000 more of these living in the Republic of Congo than had formerly been reckoned... maybe the gorillas should stay that way to survive). Mandrills and drills are not always easy to spot either.

So maybe the rainforest part of Africa (some of it still intact in West Africa and much larger portions, of course, still existing in Central Africa) is somehow meant to be always elusive, always out there and yet mostly inaccessible. There is something very compelling in that sort of realm. With respect to the African rainforests, it's the environment that remains protected and mysterious by virtue of its inhospitable nature, its thickness of plant growth, its canopy only allowing very diffused light to reach the ground, and its sole human inhabitants often being of a diminutive size (pygmies) and of a very different way of thinking than the rest of us. A land inhabited by people who must regard the forest as father and mother in order to survive there.

Maybe it should always remain mostly off-limits to the rest of us. That appeals to the romantic spirit of adventurous travel. The rainforest would therefore remain that impenetrable part of Africa, the mind's imaginings free to fill it with what wild entities it can create to suit the occasion.

Well, allow me to return to Earth.

Now, I wish to make one additional point. GAP should, in my opinion, include, along with Mali, at least the countries of Burkina Faso and Ghana as well. You see, Burkina Faso could be a continuation of those seemingly great cultural experiences one would get with the Mali experience. And then Ghana would offer Mole National Park (which contains about 600 West Africa savannah elephants, some lions and leopards, etc.; wouldn't it be great to see West African savannah elephants?) and Kakum, the rainforest with the suspended walkway through the canopy (here one sees mostly birds and insects... but it is genuine African rainforest and that's how animal viewing in a rainforest is... one typically hears a lot more of the animals than one sees... but one might just see that forest elephant or chimpanzee in there... it's the african lottery).

Cheers,

Juscz
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Re: West Africa GAP Safaris?

Postby jimshu » Tue Aug 19, 2008 4:29 pm

Hi John, Just had a quick read of your last and yes there is this question we all need to think about-
Maybe it should always remain mostly off-limits to the rest of us.

Coincidentally last night I was reading a report that questions the effect of Ecotourism on wildlife.Apparently 1 in 5 travellers is now an ecotourist.But studies are now suggesting that where once abundant wildlife is now being disturbed by ecotourists, the wildlife population crashes!
Either they move/are displaced, or social patterns are disrupted and less breeding occurs.Or does ecotourism have an unforseen effect on their food source?
Now that effect has got to be a worry and just has to be researched more.
I'll try and find the link to that...
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Re: West Africa GAP Safaris?

Postby Juscz » Tue Aug 19, 2008 7:48 pm

Hi jimshu,

Thanks for your post and your point that not all ecotourism is beneficial and that all of it may be, to at least some degree, harmful (hope I've paraphrased you correctly here).

I have no doubt that some aspects of ecostourism are inevitably harmful. However, I would wager that in general ecotourism provides financial opportunity to less privileged countries and is probably a far better alternative, where the interest is preserving wildlife, than to simply just let the environment be exploited for commercial gain ala some other, much more damaging and irreversible mechanism.

If the sources that you get the information from are comparing the effects of ecotourism verses the effects of zero natural environment exploitation, than it would seem intuitively obvious that the latter is better for conservation of wildlife. However, consider that in late 19th century Africa there were perhaps less than 50 white rhinoceros surviving in South Africa and that elephants were virtually gone from both what is now the Kruger Park area and The Serengeti. Has ecotourism benefited at least these species in these areas? Hluhluwe/Imfolozi alone now has 3,500 white rhinoceroses (this doesn't take into account the individuals that have been moved to other parts of Africa) and Kruger has an estimated 13,000+ elephants. No doubt the Serengeti has well over zero elephants today as well.

Now, would these places be better off in terms of wildlife if nobody visited them AND the native folks kept off of them as well? Certainly. I can't see how, as a generalization, anyone could argue against that (though there probably are some exceptions).

If folks don't bring revenue to the parks by visiting them, the locals have no reason to preserve the animals. They will likely look upon them as a food and/or product resource that will improve their lives, even for perhaps just a short time. Do we really think that native Africans, for example, are going to listen when we say something like, "Don't even go into these huge game park areas of your country because it isn't in the ecosystem's best interests. Instead, just let the occasional researcher enter the park and she/he will give you a report on how well the creatures there are doing. You will feel very good in knowing that the setting aside of these huge sectors of land that almost nobody of your country will be allowed to visit will be all for helping the ecosystem"?

We don't live, jimshu, in a world like that any more. Our populations have sky-rocketed to incredible dimensions and the planet is likely to hit, by 2030, the 8.3 billion mark in numbers of Homo sapiens (at least). And there is no way (my opinion) that we can morally ask folks NOT to reproduce in such quantities as they are presently doing. Things haven't gotten bad enough (yet) to where the average person wants or even thinks about that. But that may eventually happen (well, it has happened in China already) in parts of the world and people may beg their governments to impose reproductive restrictions on our species.

I think that the whole reproductive thing is much too tied into spiritual belief psyche of human beings and it is something that government-mandated restrictions on it just cannot be sought at this time (and I am not for it being imposed; I would rather that individuals just made the choice themselves to reproduce in much smaller numbers). But if we are faced with dire survival issues as a result of overpopulation (and I can't see how it won't come to that.... eventually, overpopulation will pass our technological capacity to keep pace), then it will probably come to that.

So, it is time to discover now just which species can coexist with Homo sapiens. For the time being, many African large animals can no longer roam free and they must be confined to the somewhat (at least somewhat) artificial conditions of the game parks. I think that this is far better than letting the animals go extinct. It is not the most natural of situations. But we no longer inhabit a planet where there still exists tremendous stretches of land where only non-human organisms reside.

There will be, as I see it, an inevitable non-natural selection imposed by human beings upon all other life on this planet (it has been happening already for many centuries now... consider that the last wild lions in the area of Greece died out about 2,000 years ago... the result of human encroachment upon habitat, more than anything else) as our numbers continue to increase. Some animals, such as cats and dogs, will benefit by adapting to this ever-growing human population and its world. Some others will benefit as well. But, I am guessing that most will not take to it so well and the inevitable extinctions will occur.

The game parks are not perfect. But they do allow this ecotourism business to provide locals with a living and they also give the organisms living there a generally good home (though not perfectly resembling the natural environment that existed several centuries back). I therefore believe that ecotourism, with its inevitable harmful effects, is the best means at present by which to preserve many of the species worldwide that would otherwise be unable to coexist with us.

Some rainforest area of Africa still remain relatively untouched by humans. It is somewhat reassuring to know that today, when a number of world nations possess the capacity to destroy all Earthly life at the touch of a few buttons, there still exist these rather untouched areas where, say, 125,000 gorillas can reside and be virtually unknown to the 'civilized world.'

Cheers,

Juscz
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Re: West Africa GAP Safaris?

Postby jimshu » Tue Aug 19, 2008 8:26 pm

Being at work I have only read through quickly, and can see that this thread should be split so the topic of 'Ecotourism' can be explored more thoroughly.I'm sure it will be of interest to many as we all have an interest in minimising our environmental footprint.
Got to cobble.....
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Re: Ecotourism-good or bad?

Postby jimshu » Sun Aug 24, 2008 4:24 pm

Just a recap here-
I have split the above posts from the West Africa Gap tours thread in the Africa forum as it may be beneficial to members here to discuss the effects,of Ecotourism.In the light of a report which suggests that it is not all as good as we'd like to think.
So what are the upsides?And what are the downsides?
When I read reports that Kruger is to cull possibly 1,000's of it's elephants, I want to know why and how?
I hear that camping in the Okavango , (because of the huge increase in tourism numbers)is going to be stopped and visitors will have to stay at expensive lodges or designated campsites which will limit numbers and push up prices.Will these aereas become the preserve of just the very rich?
I have just seen photos of my friend's climb to the top of Mt Everest.And was appalled at the rubbish strewn around in the snow right at the top of the world...discarded oxygen cylinders, colourful plastic sheeting everywhere,food wrappers....
I had thought climbers were to take out with them everything.But that doesn't happen.
Then there is the effect on wildlife.A report suggests that wildlife numbers can crash in areas we visit.We may have unforseen influences on them , by disturbing their social interaction, or their food supplies, or just being too noisy!
Anyone want to comment?
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Re: Ecotourism-good or bad?

Postby jimshu » Tue Oct 21, 2008 7:08 pm

Interesting report here-
http://www.rwandatourism.com/pdf/article2.pdf
for those who are off gorilla watching.
And here-
http://www.rwandatourism.com/pdf/article3.pdf
I'd never considered the high risk of transmission of diseases from humans to gorillas....
So don't go visiting them if you've got the sneezywheezies! :wink:
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Re: Ecotourism-good or bad?

Postby jessy27 » Tue Mar 27, 2012 11:41 am

Jascz,
I'm glad that the rainforest elephants are so elusive otherwise there probably
wouldn't be any left. However your post was great, ever considered writing
fiction :?:
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Re: Ecotourism-good or bad?

Postby darrenpete » Fri Apr 19, 2013 6:03 am

Eco-tourism is basically an operator who makes no negative impact on the environment and helps to sustain and promote the life of the local ecosystems. Their activities should not pollute the local surroundings and have a mutually beneficial relationship with local residents through education of how to sustain them without damaging the environment. In South Africa, teaching locals how to make crafts from empty cans and used containers to minimize litter and help create a source of income is one example of this. The tour operator should also be involved in the education of locals concerning the environment and teaching them how to live in harmony with it, instead of destroying it.
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