What is Wildlife Tourism?
Generally, Wildlife is a common word that technically covers both fauna and flora, but in popular usage, the word wildlife is primarily utilized to make reference to living creatures in wild. The word Wildlife Tourism usually refers to the tourism involving wildlife watching. Wildlife watching is an action/activity, which includes the watching of wildlife in natural environment. It’s usually referred to watching of wild animals only and it is sharply distinguished from other wildlife-based activities, such as fishing and hunting. Watching an animal or wildlife is basically an observational task, but in a few situations, it could involve interactions with the animal being observed with harmless actions such as feeding or touching them. Wildlife watching tourism or wildlife tourism is a form of tourism that’s organised and undertaken as a way to watch the wildlife in their natural habitat.
Wildlife tourism in relation to other types of tourism and its sustainability.
The aspects of wildlife tourism generally overlay with different forms of tourism. Wildlife watching tourism especially cooccur with eco-tourism, whose primary motto is to conserve natural and cultural heritage involving local inhabitants providing them monetary benefits with minimizing tourism’s adverse effect on environment. The wildlife tourism is linked to a wide variety of tourism formats. Generally, tourist’s own interest governs the actions involved in tourism, but in contrast to this in wildlife tourism the activities are limited with an effort not to disturb the wildlife and reducing the anthropogenic impact on wild habitats.
Further, like other forms of tourism, it’s essential that wildlife tourism needs to really be sustainable, and ought to protect the wildlife, habitats and communities around which it is happening. Sustainable development generally refers to the development processes involving natural resources that meets the requirements of the present generations without compromising the capacity of future upcoming generations to satisfy their requirements and needs in future. For being sustainable, wildlife tourism should make a positive contribution to the conservation of cultural and natural environment and creating economic opportunities for the host communities, rather endangering the long-term livelihood of local individuals. and also, to be instrumental for stopping economic, ecological, societal and ethnic degradation.
Conservation benefits from wildlife tourism
There a number of potential benefits of tourism for wildlife conservation in protected areas that include:
- Revenue generation for the maintenance and conservation of natural resources of the area;
- Contributions to socio-economic development, such as:
- Funding for the development of infrastructure and various social services.
- Providing jobs to the local inhabitants.
- Providing funds for development or maintenance of sustainable practices in pertinence to conservation of wildlife.
- Providing alternative livelihoods to the local communities to reduce the dependency on natural biological diversity implying its conservation.
- Providing education to the local community and empowering them financially.
- Planning and developing infrastructure for enhancing tourist satisfaction and experience gained at tourist destination.
Successful wildlife tourism can generate monetary benefits that could provide aid to species conservation programmes involving scientific research and awareness among local inhabitants. Further it can support local communities’ development and progress.
Typology of international tourists that visit protected areas
Type of tourists. (Source: J. Cochrane (2003) in UNEP (2005) Forging Links Between Protected Areas and the Tourism Sector: How tourism can benefit conservation, (Authors: Richard Tapper and Janet Cochrane) pp. 13-14, UNEP: Paris (available at www.uneptie.org/tourism))
Adventurous solitary individuals, requiring no special facilities. May be relatively well-off, but prudently judicious in spending. Rejects purpose-built tourism facilities in favor of local ones.
Travels for a possibly longer duration on limited budget, like taking a year off between school/university and starting work. Prefer local transport hardship, cheap accommodation, etc. Eager to experience the travel but not conscious about the local culture. Enjoys trekking and scenery, but often unable to visit remote areas because of limited budget. Mostly requires facilities of low-cost.
Experienced travelers, and generally well-paid professionals. Demanding more facilities than Backpackers and with a higher daily expenditure. Genuinely desirous to learn about local culture and nature, and require good information.
Group of people often inexperienced at travelling, prefer to travel in big groups, may be wealthy. Prefer to enjoy superficial aspects of local culture and natural scenery and wildlife without any hardship. Require good facilities, and only to prefer travel far if the journey is comfortable and luxurious. Includes cruise ship passengers.
Travel as Free Independent Travelers (FITs) on tailor-made itineraries with a tour operator or tour guide, and often prefer the security and company of group tour. Generally, have limited time available for holiday. May be relatively wealthy, interested to know about the local culture, keen on nature/wildlife, only when not too hard to see. Prefer soft adventure’ such as easy trekking and low-grade white-water rafting. Dislike travelling long distances without any points of interest. Prefer good facilities, although may accept basic conditions for short period of time.
Persons dedicated to a particular hobby, fairly adventurous, prepared to pay for fulfilling the hobby and have others take care of logistics. Travel as FITs or in groups. May have little interest in culture and keen to their hobby. Requires special facilities and services, like dive-boats, bird-guides etc. May accepts discomfort and prefer long travel where it is necessary to achieve a particular aim. May have active involvement, e.g. environmental research project. Mostly refers small groups