Wildlife tourism is a tremendous instrument that nations can use to build and diversify their economies while also maintaining their biodiversity and reaching a number of Sustainable Development Goals, according to the World Wildlife Fund. It also serves as a means of involving visitors in wildlife conservation while also injecting funds into the local people that are closest to animals. From all across the world, success stories and lessons learned from nature-based tourism are being shared with us.
However, although nature-based tourism, which includes wildlife tourism, has grown significantly in recent years as a result of greater demand and opportunity, animals and biodiversity are increasingly endangered by habitat loss, poaching, and a lack of financing for conservation.
As a result, more than ever, countries must look to concrete examples of well-planned, sustainably-run tourism operations that have resulted in increased investments in protected areas and reserves, a decrease in poaching, an increase in the non-consumptive value of wildlife through viewing, and opportunities for rural communities to improve their livelihoods through tourism-related jobs, revenue-sharing arrangements, and co-management of natural resources.
The promotion of wildlife tourism is necessary for a variety of reasons, one of which is enlightened self-interest. As the most evident means of reconciling the interests of nature with the necessity for expansion and progress, it is also the most difficult. In addition to creating employment, tourism may also help to maintain natural environments if it is done properly.
Another reason why investments in nature-based tourism should be encouraged is to encourage prudence and cautionary behavior. Several delicate natural settings and ecosystems are nearing their limitations, according to the science of “planetary boundaries,” and in some instances, the supposed safe borders have been breached. Continuing ecological destruction will result in the loss of critical ecosystem services such as watershed and soil protection, which will have negative effects on development in the future.
But, perhaps most importantly, humanity’s moral and ethical obligation as custodians of the world’s ecosystems is a compelling motivator. The mere fact that humans have the capability to destroy or alter ecosystems and drive species to extinction does not make it morally acceptable. Ecotourism may help achieve this ethical balance, which is why it is becoming more popular. There is no doubt that we need employment and economic development, but there is a way to acquire jobs and economic growth while still meeting our moral and ethical obligations.
Those who live in close proximity to nature and animals must also get the benefits. Local residents that live in or near national parks or on their peripheries are often of very low socioeconomic status. In addition to being vital for social and business reasons, having tourist operations that can benefit them is critical to the organization’s long-term viability. If the advantages of tourism are shared with the local residents, they will place a higher value on the parks.
We also need to be aware of animal corridors that exist. We already know that dispersion and migration are important biological factors in determining the survival of species. Closed systems, in which animals are unable to roam about in order to mate, are not viable in the long term. As we fragment ecosystems due to infrastructure and growing human populations, we are putting the ecosystems’ ability to maintain life on life support at risk.