November 23, 2011
Ecotourism doesn't hurt biodiversity, and in some cases may even safeguard vulnerable areas, concludes a new study from the Amazon in Mammalian Biology. Surveying large mammals in an ecotourism area in Manu National Biosphere, the researchers found that ecotourists had no effect on the animals. However, the researchers warn that not all ecotourism is the same, and some types may, in fact, hurt the very animals tourists come to see.
Still in the Amazon researchers saw only benefits to ecotourism, cataloging 85 percent of large mammals in the ecotourism area as are found in the entire park.
"We could not find any way in which the richness of species has been affected," explains lead author Salvador Salvador in a press release. "No species sensitive to the presence of humans was lacking and although we were unable to calculate population density, species like the tapir (Tapirus terrestris) or the [white-lipped peccary] (Tayassu peccary) were abundant, even compared to virgin forest areas."
In addition, ecotourism could even support wildlife populations. According to Salvador, ecotourism in the Amazon tends to focus on areas near rivers, preserving some of the forest under the greatest pressure from settlers.
"These areas are home to species that are attractive, spectacular and easily visible such as the alligators, the giant otter and macaw clay licks," explains Salvador.
Salvador cautioned, however, that this study should not be seen to cover other ecotourism options, saying "a [photographic] safari in Kenya is not the same as what we studied in the Amazon rainforest." Most ecotourism in the Amazon is conducted by hiking or in boats.