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COLABORATOR´S ARTICLES

 

 

EL ECOTURISMO EN PAISES TROPICALES; UNA INDUSTRIA EN PLENA EXPANSION, PERO TAMBIEN CON PROBLEMAS

 

 

Gerardo Budowski, Ph.D.

Recursos Naturales y Paz

Universidad para la Paz

Ex-Presidente, Sociedad Internacional de Ecoturismo

Ex-Director General, Unión Internacional para la Conservación de la Naturaleza (U.I.C.N.), Suiza

13 al 14 de Septiembre, 2001

Venezuela

Introducción

 

Ecoturismo o turismo basado en la naturaleza puede ser definido como "viajar en forma responsable hacia áreas naturales conservando el medio ambiente y mejorando el bienestar de las comunidades locales" (The Ecotourism Society, 1993). Una buena parte de los ecoturistas se interesan en las aves, otros admiran diferentes grupos de animales, así como los árboles con sus troncos variados, su arquitectura y sus epífitas, las orquídeas, los arrecifes de coral, saltos de agua, los humedales y otras maravillas de la naturaleza. Se suele combinar el ecoturismo con el "agro-turismo" que hace resaltar algunos usos de la tierra, particularmente atractivos para su interpretación, como lo son por ejemplo: las terrazas, los árboles de sombra de café y cacao, las cercas vivas, etc. Muchos "ecoturistas" combinan su estadía con otras actividades (visitas personales, conferencias nacionales o internacionales) o con otras actividades turísticas como visitas a las playas, turismo religioso, turismo de salud, turismo deportivo, turismo cultural (como por ejemplo: museos, visitas a comunidades indígenas), etc.

 

El ecoturismo puede ser muy beneficioso para el país, pero también puede generar problemas si no está cuidadosamente planificado, ejecutado y controlado periódicamente. Los diferentes actores del ecoturismo incluyen lógicamente las compañías que ofrecen "tours", los hoteles y restaurantes cercanos al lugar visitado, los guías profesionales (con buenos conocimientos de idiomas y capaces de "interpretar" el recurso natural), las compañías de transporte, los responsables de manejar el sistema de diferentes categorías de áreas protegidas y desde luego el o los organismos gubernamentales o estatales rectores del turismo. También intervienen diferentes ONG’s especialmente aquellas dedicadas a la conservación de la naturaleza.

 

El ecoturismo bien practicado, puede convertirse en un poderoso instrumento para la conservación de la flora y fauna al valorizar un recurso natural como por ejemplo el bosque primario o los arrecifes de coral, pero también puede causar diferentes tipos de daños biológicos, físicos, sociales y económicos si no se práctica bien. La siguiente exposición introductiva pretende analizar los factores positivos y negativos del ecoturismo y sacar algunas conclusiones, siempre en sus aspectos generales.

 

 

Las premisas del ecoturismo en Costa Rica

 

El país cuenta con gran variedad de zonas de vida y enorme riqueza biológica (plantas, animales, especialmente aves) que atrae diferentes grupos de ecoturistas. De hecho existe un excelente sistema de parques nacionales y otras categorías de áreas protegidas (hoy llamadas "áreas de conservación") establecido en su mayoría hace 10-25 años, antes de la "ola ecoturística".

 

Los recursos anteriormente descritos son muy accesibles si se comparan con países más grandes (Brazil, Colombia y Venezuela por ejemplo). En Costa Rica, pocos sitios necesitan más de 5 horas por carretera para llegar (mucho menos con aviones pequeños). Hay parques nacionales prístinos a menos de una hora en vehículo desde San José. En otros países aunque muy grandes, existen igualmente áreas prístinas con "diversidad concentrada" pero las facilidades y el tiempo para llegar allí son mucho más problemáticas.

 

Existen centenares de hoteles (a menudo llamadas "cabinas" cuando son pequeños), desde precios muy módicos (rústicos) hasta de lujo, muchos de ellos cercanos a los recursos ecoturísticos y que incluyen el grueso de la ocupación. Muchos son atendidos por su dueño y algunas manejan e interpretan reservas privadas aledaños para beneficio de sus visitantes.

 

Existen más de 120 agencias de turismo receptivo, con personal bi o trilingüe, con agresivas campañas de promoción.

 

Existe actualmente un grupo muy competente de guías naturalistas muchos multilingües y altamente calificados para interpretar las bellezas naturales (así como rasgos culturales) a los ecoturistas.

 

Hay una alta cantidad de libros y guías de campo explicativas sobre áreas naturales (aves, mamíferos, ranas, mariposas, tortugas, etc.), todo en diferentes idiomas y para uso popular. Además hay una gran cantidad de publicaciones científicas sobre la flora y fauna y sus interacciones, todo lo que permite programas atractivos de interpretación. De hecho Costa Rica se considera como el país tropical mejor estudiado en recursos biológicos. Al respecto merece destacarse la labor del INBIO (Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad)

 

En Costa Rica, por ejemplo, más de un millón de turistas extranjeros llegaron al país en 1999 de los cuales 70% explicaron que "vienen por la naturaleza". Se calcula un número parecido de visitantes locales a las áreas naturales protegidas (ciudadanos costarricenses y residentes extranjeros). Es actualmente el primer renglón de captación de divisas (pasó al banano y al café), después de la industria electrónica INTEL. Cabe destacar que las divisas que aportan los ecoturistas, "circulan" ampliamente antes de "inmovilizarse" (en un banco por ejemplo) lo que es económicamente muy deseable.

 

Costa Rica está empeñada en promocionar sus bellezas naturales en el extranjero. En general, los turistas están satisfechos y muchos vuelven de nuevo. En los últimos años las llegadas desde el extranjero han aumentado entre 8 y 20% por año.

 

Además de constituir una fuente importante de empleo para agencias de turismo receptivo, hoteles, restaurantes, transportes, etc., ha demostrado beneficiar y promover actividades locales diversas como artesanía y folklore.

 

Teóricamente se trata de una "industria sin chimeneas" que contamina muy poco (si bien esto no es siempre el caso).

 

La presencia física de ecoturistas en un lugar valoriza el recurso y evita la conversión de áreas con su vegetación y fauna excepcionales a otros usos, a veces destructivos. Por lo tanto contribuye a la conservación de la naturaleza y su biodiversidad y justifica en forma significativa y desde diferentes perspectivas (económicas, sociales, culturales, etc.) los esfuerzos para crear y manejar diferentes categorías de áreas protegidas.

 

El ecoturismo ha promovido nuevas posibilidades para aprovechar áreas naturales anteriormente desconocidas, como el recorrido en balsas en los ríos ("white water rafting"), los desplazamientos aéreos entre los árboles a base de cables o teleféricos (o trenes aéreos) y otras modalidades novedosas.

 

Permite un "renacimiento" del folklore y sus implicaciones. Así por ejemplo, ecoturismo ha estimulado el auge de conjuntos locales de música y de bailes típicos para actuar en hoteles, restaurantes y otros sitios; asimismo permite promover platos típicos de la región, refrescos de frutas nativas y otras modalidades que dan un "valor agregado" para mayor atracción para el ecoturista.

 

El agroturismo con explicaciones sobre modalidades agrícolas locales, se perfila como un atractivo adicional muy prometedor para el ecoturista atraído inicialmente por los atributos naturales. Un ejemplo es una exitosa presentación teatral sobre el cultivo del café con sombra, promovida por una empresa productora de café, lo que atrae una audiencia cada vez mayor. Otras formas del agroturismo que se combinan bien con giras ecoturísticas han sido el uso de cercas vivas, las plantaciones y el procesamiento del banano, el cultivo y recolección de la nuez de macadamia, y el cultivo de las plantas ornamentales para la exportación.

 

La estación seca en Costa Rica, corresponde en gran parte al invierno frío del hemisferio norte lo que favorece la llegada de ecoturistas (y turistas en general) que huyen del frío (es la estación "alta" local) en su hemisferio mientras que en la estación lluviosa (llamada "invierno" en Costa Rica, pero que últimamente se ha tildado de "estación verde"), hay rebajas de precios y otras promociones muy atractivas para mejor "llenar los hoteles", especialmente con ecoturistas locales. Aquí conviene analizar la competencia actual y potencial de otros países que en muchos casos tienen atractivos parecidos, inclusive mayores que en Costa Rica (e.g. arqueología, grupos indígenas accesibles con artesanía propia, mayor biodiversidad, etc.) pero a menudo hay problemas como carencia de infraestructuras adecuadas como hoteles contiguos a las atracciones naturales, la seguridad humana que deja mucho que desear, las escasas publicaciones para beneficio del ecoturista, los pocos guías locales altamente calificados y las áreas protegidas que no son correctamente manejadas. A menudo en otros países, hay carencia de políticas claras especialmente para conciliar el ecoturismo con la conservación de la naturaleza.

 

Puede considerarse como un poderoso instrumento de educación, de capacitación, de avance de la ciencia, de divulgación audio-visual, como lo demuestran por ejemplo los numerosos cursos internacionales sobre biología tropical y temas afines, las giras de estudio de grupos universitarios o de especialistas en flora y fauna, y otros sectores interesados en ciertos aspectos de la naturaleza, y la creciente producción de videos y programas de televisión mostrando las maravillas naturales.

 

Se crea un ambiente favorable y una reputación internacional cuando un país protege su biodiversidad y lo abre cuidadosamente para un turismo responsable. Hay ventajas directas e indirectas ya que da prestigio al país, crea condiciones favorables para cooperación técnica, para inversiones de capital extranjero, estimula la llegada de personas jubilados del extranjero con cómoda situación económica, que pretenden establecerse en el país, y otros beneficios.

Críticas, errores cometidos y lecciones aprendidas

 

La siguiente lista no es exhaustiva y todos los problemas señalados tienen soluciones conocidas pero a menudo poco implementadas.

 

Las poblaciones locales o aledañas al recurso natural, no reciben beneficios económicos adecuados, o muy pocos. Se sienten marginadas frente al auge de ecoturistas visitantes y ven como el beneficio económico favorece a grupos ajenos y con pocas implicaciones favorables para las comunidades del lugar.

 

Remedio: recursos para formar guías locales, empresarios para suplir las necesidades provocadas por el auge del ecoturismo (producción de alimentos, materiales de construcción, artesanía local, etc.)

 

A menudo hay efectos culturales adversos directos e indirectos para las poblaciones aledañas a las áreas visitadas. Para construir hoteles por ejemplo, se traen obreros y otras personas de afuera que dan origen a diferentes situaciones conflictivas; también a menudo las costumbres de los visitantes no encajan en la idiosincrasia local. Hay numerosos ejemplos de visitas a comunidades indígenas que causaron problemas.

 

Hay conflictos en el uso tradicional aprovechamiento de la tierra con sus animales y plantas de parte de las poblaciones contiguas a las áreas naturales, ya que al aumentar el ecoturismo se fijan limitaciones para ciertas actividades tradicionales para las poblaciones aledañas (prohibición de cazar en áreas que ahora son "protegidas", defensa de cortar leña y postes, o de cosechar plantas medicinales, hojas de palmas para techar, etc.)

 

El auge del ecoturismo ha generado cambios de propietarios de tierras y una especulación a menudo nociva sobre su valor, especialmente para poblaciones locales se resiente la presencia de extranjeros que operan a veces en forma poco escrupulosa a lo largo de los linderos de áreas protegidas y otros recursos ecoturísticos.

 

Hay todavía cierta indiferencia y hasta críticas de parte de las compañías de turismo en torno al manejo gubernamental de las áreas naturales y protegidas, de las cuales dependen en gran parte para atraer turistas. En general, hay una insuficiente contribución (más que todo económica). Poco se reinvierten las ganancias del ecoturismo en mejorar el "producto" que atrae los visitantes, así como las zonas de amortiguamiento donde viven poblaciones locales. Debe señalarse que hay excepciones notables. Hace unos diez años, dos de las agencias de turismo receptivo más importantes del país, donaron $25000 al Servicio de Parques Nacionales especialmente para "agradecer los servicios de los guardaparques y sus esfuerzos en pro de las áreas protegidas".

 

Hay "sobreventa" de "productos", ya que se prometen muchos atractivos al ecoturista sin que realmente los pueda ver en sus recorridos, lo que causa decepciones. Así hay folletos de promoción, con fotos de jaguar ("tigre"), danta o águila harpía, que el ecoturista no va a ver en su recorrido.

 

Hay insuficientes vinculaciones con las poblaciones aledañas cuyo conocimiento biológico, cultural y artístico, histórico y hasta uso culinario, pocas veces se aprovecha.

 

Los turistas que visitan áreas pristinas pueden causar daño en forma directa o indirecta a la flora y fauna. Un ejemplo es la alimentación de animales (monos, aves, cocodrilos) para que los ecoturistas los puedan ver mejor y fotografiarlos. Esto puede originar problemas en las costumbres de ciertos animales, especialmente cuando se suspende tal costumbre y hay un caso de monos que llegaron hasta la cocina y mordieron al personal cuando se suspendió la alimentación diaria.

 

Las construcciones turísticas (hoteles, restaurantes, tiendas diversas) se ubican demasiado cerca del recurso natural, o con estilos arquitectónicos que no encajan en el paisaje. Hay a menudo efectos perjudiciales en cuanto a la contaminación de aguas, acumulación y procesamientos deficientes de desechos sólidos, ruido excesivo, luz nociva en la noche (por ejemplo cerca de playas donde desovan las tortugas marinas).

 

Los senderos para visitar recursos ecoturísticos a menudo están pobremente diseñados (recorrido poco atractivo, regreso igual que la ida, cuando un itinerario circular hubiera sido mucho más interesante, fenómenos de erosión por pisoteo, etc.) o lo que es más grave, pobremente interpretados por "seudo guías" inescrupulosos. La interpretación correcta es una ciencia aún poco perfeccionada en los carteles de educación.

 

Se da poca consideración a la "capacidad de carga" del área visitada, cuando ésta es frágil. Algunas prácticas como sólo permitir la entrada a un número limitado de visitantes, o por lo menos espaciar los grupos con sus guías o diversificar los senderos, aún no están muy difundidas.

 

Muchas promociones del turismo ecológico están dirigidas para solamente atraer al turismo de extranjeros, al especular que sólo ellos tienen un alto nivel económico ("dejando los dólares"). A menudo, no se presta la debida atención al turismo nacional o a grupos escolares locales, con escasos recursos económicos.

 

Hay escasez de estudios responsables sobre cómo satisfacer el aumento progresivo de la demanda de parte de los ecoturistas. En vez de planificar a mediano y largo plazo, se reacciona (y a menudo se improvisa) cuando hay crisis o ciertas catástrofes (hasta la próxima crisis).

 

Poco se usa la experiencia y las publicaciones de otros países. Un ejemplo es la amplia producción de materiales diversos de la Sociedad Mundial de Ecoturismo que inclusive tiene textos en español.

 

Hay limitaciones presupuestarias para planificar, promover, ejecutar y controlar el ecoturismo, especialmente en el aspecto hotelero. Hay un movimiento reciente, promovido en Costa Rica por el Instituto de Turismo y adoptado por la Organización Mundial del Turismo de las Naciones Unidas, para calificar y certificar hoteles, por su demostrada sensibilidad ambiental, pero falta evaluar los resultados y su impacto real en la práctica.

 

Hay insuficientes cuarteles educativos y de investigación de alta calidad, con centros de documentación idónea para formar profesionales e investigadores en ecoturismo a diferentes niveles y con varias especializaciones.

 

Faltan evaluaciones y otras estadísticas objetivas y detalladas sobre el impacto del ecoturismo, como base para mejorar o cambiar el rumbo y el impulso de iniciativas para promover un ecoturismo más responsable y sostenible.

 

Tendencias futuras

 

El ecoturismo sin duda va a crecer según los atractivos, las políticas en torno a los precios, las facilidades ofrecidas, la capacidad y la conveniencia de combinar con otros atractivos turísticos. Un temor creciente es la seguridad humana del ecoturista; sujeto a secuestros y asaltos para robar, lo que ha influenciado en forma negativa a muchos ecoturistas potenciales, como se ha demostrado en varias instancias.

 

A nivel mundial creará la inversión para promover el ecoturismo y aumentará la competitividad entre países para atraer ecoturistas de afuera. También cabe esperar que aumente el interés para estimular el ecoturismo para grupos locales, especialmente entre los jóvenes con posibilidades económicas limitadas.

 

Se mejorarán y se resolverán paulatinamente, por lo menos en teoría, los problemas señalados aquí bajo críticas y errores cometidos, pero mucho dependería de la voluntad para implementar soluciones prácticas que sean social y económicamente aceptables.

 

Se prevé un aumento espectacular de la certificación u otras formas de etiquetaje, para los hoteles y otras empresas vinculadas con el ecoturismo.

 

El ecoturismo se transformará en una ciencia interdisciplinaria al incluir aspectos biológicos, económicos y sociales como parte de las investigaciones, las publicaciones, los curricula en universidades y se fomentarán especialidades (por ejemplo en arquitectura, para diseñar construcciones que armonicen con el entorno). Habrá cada vez mayor número de publicaciones, como mejores guías ornitológicas y de otros grupos de animales y plantas, así como guías de hoteles con mención de su sensibilidad ambiental.

 

Finalmente cabe esperar una mayor y mejor colaboración entre conservacionistas y promotores del ecoturismo al encontrar muchos puntos de convergencia de beneficio mutuo (por ejemplo la conservación de la biodiversidad), ya que se trata de una relación simbiótica natural.

Conclusiones

 

Para lograr la tan deseada sostenibilidad, es imprescindible mejorar el proceso de planificación y consultas continuas con los diferentes actores interesados, incluyendo las poblaciones locales que viven dentro o alrededor del atractivo turístico. Debe tomarse en cuenta sus intereses y rasgos culturales. También es necesario procurar un mayor control de las empresas comerciales que explotan el turismo ecológico. Es imprescindible una visión a largo plazo con políticas claras y ampliamente divulgadas, una legislación adecuada y crear uno o varios buenos centros de documentación. Las estructuras administrativas idóneas para facilitar esta transición deben contar, con presupuestos apropiados. También se necesita un código de ética con reglamentos y directrices operacionales y que sea ampliamente difundido. El mejor uso de la literatura que existe a nivel mundial facilitará enormemente esta tarea.

 

Ante todo conviene disponer de una "estrategia para mejor desarrollar el ecoturismo responsable", fruto de un amplio proceso de consulta y concertación.

 

En algunos países se ha creado la Asociación (o Sociedad) Nacional de Ecoturismo como un gremio profesional para analizar tendencias, problemas y sugerir políticas y planes de acción, algo que aún no existe, pero sería muy deseable para Costa Rica.

 

No hay duda que la América Tropical tiene una variedad extraordinaria de recursos naturales los que bien manejados, pueden contribuir significativamente para un desarrollo sostenible en sus aspectos biológicos, económicos y sociales. En este empeño, el ecoturismo bien manejado puede y debe jugar un papel fundamental.

 

 

Read  Writer´s Guide

 

 

Make sure you also visit the Conservation Action Network (CAN) at  http://takeaction.worldwildlife.org/  CAN is an electronic advocacy network that enables you to take action quickly and easily on important issues such as endangered species and global warming.

Visit the interactive WildWorld web site. Zoom in on world maps, see photos and descriptions of over 1000 ecoregions, and find in-depth information, video, and sound clips on special places like the Bering Sea. Take a trip to WildWorld now.

Learn About the Planet
Subscribe to Living Planet magazine and explore a world of exotic creatures, dramatic
spaces, fascinating people and important issues. This quarterly nature magazine is packed with compelling wildlife and nature
photography and inspiring articles. Subscribe 

Rescuing the Galapagos Find out how WWF is leading the effort to rehabilitate this pristine and diverse ecological treasure and what you can do to support conservation on the archipelago.

 

Ancient Forest Alert - Detained Greenpeace Volunteers

 

Tropical Forests
A variety of tropical forest ecosystems grow within the equatorial regions of the Earth, where day length and temperature remain constant throughout the year. The lush tropical rainforest, with its canopy of broad-leaved evergreen trees, is perhaps the most well-known type of tropical  forest. Atop its tallest trees, the crowns of foliage interlock, forming a verdant roof far above the forest floor. This canopy layer is the powerhouse of the forest where leaves capture energy from the Sun and convert it into organic matter. Beneath the canopy are numerous understory layers, in which a chaotic profusion of plants, animals, and other organisms engage in interactions in 
their struggle to survive. Trees of various sizes abound, with climbing vines such as lianas strung  across limbs strewn with orchids, cacti, and bromeliads. Here butterflies flit, frogs leap, birds  dart, monkeys swing, and snakes slither. Beneath this welter of life lies the forest floor, bathed in  a dim light that barely penetrates the dense foliage above. Amid this constant twilight, fungi,  insects, and bacteria—the decomposers of the tropical forest—feed on fallen leaves, downed trees, and decaying carcasses and release nutrients to fuel the growth of the vegetation above.

 

 


Dolphins are always on the go, migrating year-round in search of food. And when they get going, there's just no stopping them. Some dolphins have been
clocked at 70 miles per hour! Their sleek build, similar to the shape of a racing yacht or submarine, helps them
glide through the water with speed and ease. 
Learn about where these creatures call home, how
they communicate, and find out what World Wildlife
Fund is doing to protect dolphins and porpoises
around the globe. 
go for a dip with Dolphins

Surrounded by the Philippines, Indonesia, and
Malaysia, the Sulu and Sulawesi seas are the home to a wealth of plant and animal life. Together, they
contain about 450 species of coral, six of the world's eight species of marine turtles, 22 species of marine mammals and a fantastic array of fish species. 

Take a journey into these magical seas, and read about what World Wildlife Fund is doing to protectthis sacred space. 

Two Seas full of Species

International Whaling
Commission Fails to Protect
Whales 


The recent 53rd meeting of the
International Whaling Commission
(IWC) was a great disappointment
for WWF. The IWC has been
unable to bring current unregulated
commercial whaling under
international control, a harsh
reality that has lead to
devastating setbacks. 

Sadly, with the increasing number of countries with strong ties to
Japan joining the IWC, pro-whaling interests may dominate future
meetings. The next IWC meeting is scheduled for Shimoneseki,
Japan in May 2002, and its outcome will have a huge impact upon
the future of whale conservation. To read more, click here. 


The Glowing Gulf

Take just one glance into the
sparkling turquoise of the Gulf of
California, and the rich diversity
that dwells beneath its surface is
revealed. Some of the world's
rarest marine organisms reside in
this subtropical sea, which
stretches over 900 miles. 

This amazing expanse of sea is in
jeopardy due to several threats,
such as sedimentation and a lack of fresh water. Learn about the
steps WWF is taking to protect it. 

Voyage with WWF to the Sea of Cortez in Baja, California, and
discover its abundant wildlife.

 

 

From National Geographic magazine: Asia's Last Lions Go beyond the new article with online-only photos and field notes, a slide show, and more.

From National Geographic Traveler magazine: Virtual Flight Over the Smokies Soar over Tennessee and North
Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

From National Geographic Adventure magazine: How I Broke Into High-Speed Sailing In less than a year writer John Vaillant went from sailing novice to salty dog, then sped off to cover one of sailing's fastest races.

 

From National Geographic WildWord magazine  Wild World Interactive Conservation Atlas-Explore the world's vast and varied ecoregions through multimedia features, region profiles, detailed maps.

 

 

 

WORLD ECOTOURISM NEWS

 

Africa

CONGO: The International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP) reported that one more endangered mountain gorilla, "Rugendo", a male silverback, has been killed in the crossfire between rebel forces in the eastern Dem.Rep of Congo, in the forested Virunga Volcanoes, home of Gorilla beringei beringei. Only 350 gorillas remain in the Virunga Volcanoes. On the positive side, a rain forest described as the most pristine rain forest left in Africa, may be protected from logging under a deal between the Congo government and timber company Congolaise Industrielle des Bois (CIB), which agreed to give up its harvesting rights to the 100-square-mile Goualogo Triangle forest in the Congo's remote north.

ETHIOPIA: Ethiopian Prime Minister Zenawi announced that Italy would return the 1,000-year-old Obelisk of Axum, taken in 1937 at the behest of Benito Mussolini and placed in the Piazza di Porta Capena in Rome.

KENYA: The Nation reports that loggers are indiscriminately felling trees in Mt Kenya Forest despite a government ban on logging. Loggers are reportedly cutting down trees by day and ferrying them out of the forest at night. Timber was found in a heap a few metres away from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS)offices. / Kenya acquires a team of six search dogs, former strays from inner London, to find poachers of ivory and rhino
horn, from the British army. / Yoliswa Ndlovu, has become the first black female conservation manager at a game reserve in Africa. / Veterinary pathologists identify heavy metals as the leading cause of massive deaths of flamingos in two Rift Valley Lakes of Kenya.

MALI: Villagers on the Sahara's edge are battling a dam they say threatens the city of Djenne a millennia-old stop on the ancient gold and salt routes that is home to a grand adobe mosque considered an architectural masterpiece. U.S. researchers and preservationists are backing the warnings on Djenne, a U.N. World Heritage site: By hoarding precious water upstream, Mali may be risking the future of the 2,250-year-old city and others downstream, opponents say.

S.AFRICA: SANParks announced today that admissions to the Kruger National Park rose by 16,7% percent in the first quarter of this year, despite accusations of poor service. The number of foreign tourists rose by 23,9% for the same period, between April and June. Meanwhile statistics for the hotel industry released by Statistics SA for April 2001 revealed that room occupancy was down from 52% in April 2000 to 51.9%./ S. Africa's best-known Internet tycoon is hoping to follow Dennis Tito and become the second paying guest aboard a Russian spacecraft. Mark Shuttleworth, 27, who earned U$500 million from selling his Internet security company, Thawte Technologies, last year, is undergoing a month of tests in Star City, outside Moscow, that will indicate whether he is physically up to the challenge. 

ZAMBIA: The African Wildlife Foundation has launched a transboundary conservation project, known as the "four corners natural resource management project." and referring to the Caprivi Strip of the Zambezi River, where Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe - meet.

ZIMBABWE: Matobo Conservation Society submitted a formal proposal to the World Heritage Committee applying for World Heritage Site status for the world-famous Matobo Hills, which has the largest number of tree species in Zimbabwe. The Matobo Hills area is also home to the largest concentration of leopard in the world and the world's oldest rocks are found there. / Zimbabwe's 275-room top tourist and casino hotel, famed for its gigantic Z$ 55 million thatched roof, built as an ethnic showcase for the 1991 Commonwealth summit, and within sight of the Victoria Falls was extensively damaged by fire.

Asia & Pacific

AUSTRALIA: When a southern right whale died 100 Km south of Adelaide, about a dozen sharks immediately began devouring the carcass.Almost as immediately Boat operators cashed in, ferrying dozens of customers to the site for "a closer look", as marine restrictions do not apply for dead whales. This was not enough for some "tourists" and they were caught on camera clambering on the floating dead whale and patting the great white sharks eating the carcass. But it was enough for State Environment Minister Evans, who angrily pledged to change the law, to "protect people too stupid to protect themselves".

CAMBODIA: The government approved legislation designed to curb illegal logging by imposing stiff prison sentences and hefty fines on offenders. Prime Minister Hun Sen has vowed more than once to resign from office if his government failed in this policy. Serious offenders could be jailed for up to 10 years.

CHINA: Northeast China's Jilin Province, which is famous for its vast forests and wild Siberian tigers, has decided to build another 38 nature reserve zones for rare wild animals and rare wild plants in the next 10 years. The acreage of the province's nature reserve area is expected to reach 2.25 million hectares, accounting for 12 percent of the province's total land space. Both China and Russia have set aside wild Siberian tiger
protection areas on each country 's side of the border.

IRAN: The wild Persian donkey is struggling to avoid extinction in Iran. Theanimals were once common across central Asia and the Middle East, but no more than 400 of them remain today. In the last twenty years, uncontrolled hunting and habitat destruction have wiped out 90 percent of the population.

IRAQ: Archeologists discover an Assyrian temple and two winged lions that date back nearly 3,000 years. At Nimrud, an ancient city 280 miles north of Baghdad. The lions are about 3 metres high and 5 metres long and stand at the entrance to the temple.

JAPAN: The Japanese Fisheries Minister, Maseyuku Komatsu, publicly admitted on Australian television, that his country's cash may help persuade countries to vote to lift an international ban on whaling. Six Caribbean nations voted with Japan last year on almost every motion. Adding insult to injury, Mr. Komatsu went on to describe the minke whale, whose meat Japan is the biggest consumer of, as the "cockroach of the oceans". Asked why he called the whales cockroaches, he said: "Because there are too many. The speed of swimming is so quick". Whatever that meant, Mr. Komatsu is still in office. Japan kills about 500 whales a year, nearly all of them minkes, as part of a scientific whaling program allowed by the International Whaling Commission. Tokyo is pushing for a resumption of commercial whaling, banned by the commission in1986.

PNG, TAKU'U ISLANDS: A tiny South Pacific group of atolls, north of Papua New Guinea is appealing for help on the Internet because of rising sea levels. Taku'u's "white sandy beaches" have gone and its drinking water has been ruined by salt. The highest point on the 13 islets is 4.2 metres (not quite 14 feet) above sea level. The islanders have launched a website at http://members.tripod.com/akoa-Fitina/takuu.htm to
appeal for international help.

THAILAND: Greenpeace urged the Thai government to act swiftly against incineration of waste, which medical studies show can have a severe impact on the sexual development of children living in adjacent areas / Lisu Lodge in northern Thailand receives Conde Nast Traveler magazine's (USA) 2001 Ecotourism Award.

NEW ZEALAND: is trying to rid the whole of Campbell Island, south of New Zealand of 200,000 rats with 120 tons of poisoned bait, thrown by boats and helicopters. This is the biggest rat eradication program in History aimed to clear the way for the return of the flightless teal duck and the restoration of a species of wading bird found only on the island.

Caribbean

ANTIGUA: Police fired tear gas to break up a crowd of demonstrators protesting yesterday against construction at a hotel and resort complex.About 100 local residents of the southern village of Old Road blocked the entrance of the Carlisle Bay Resort to stop three trucks going in with building material, the Caribbean News Agency (CANA) reported. Protest leaders said they opposed the $48 million development of new 
tructures on environmental grounds.

ST.LUCIA: CANA reported that St Lucia is beginning to feel the backlash from its support for Japanese efforts to overturn a ban on international  ommercial whaling, with a group of tourists cancelling a visit to the island. St Lucia Hotel Association (SLHTA) president Berthia Parle said the whaling issue came up at a meeting of her organization during the week, and many hoteliers were unhappy with the St Lucia government's stance.She said that the group numbered about 300 tourists, and added that both the SLHTA and the St Lucia Tourist Board were in receipt of hundreds of e-mails warning of the possible repercussions since St Lucia continued to vote along with Japan on the whaling issue. She said: " What we have to realize is that ecotourism is a growing niche market globally and persons are becoming more aware and more sensitive to environmental issues." Meanwile, the "Ocean Warrior", the ship of the Sea Sheperd Conservation Society has left Miami to patrol for whaling and turtle poaching around St.Lucia and St. Vincent. With a skull flag flying from its mast and the names of ships it has sunk painted on its black steel side, the Ocean Warrior headed for the Caribbean in search of whaling vessels and turtle poachers. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a Malibu, Calif.-based anti-whaling group known for ramming whaling ships and sabotaging poachers' nets.

Europe

EU: A proposed new EU Commission Directive would simplify rules for visitors from non-EU countries by allowing visitors to travel inside most EU countries for three months, so long as they hold a valid travel document and, where appropriate, a visa or residence permit.

GREECE: Two Americans have mailed fragments of ancient Greek objects to the Greek Embassy in Washington years after their parents removed them from archaeological sites while on vacation. The two, who were not identified, sent two small fragments of clay containers and three marble fragments. Apparently, in a noble act, the Americans decided to return the artifacts after the death of their parents.

ITALY: Excessive use of force and excessive protests leave one demonstrator dead and many injured, at the G-8 summit in Genoa. The summit itself fails to make headway on environmental issues. Many, including Romano Prodi, President of the EU Commission, question the benefits from holding such meetings in the future.

NORWAY: 22 airlines organized by Greenpeace have joined to refuse to transport of whale products from Norway. Norway lifted a ban on exports of whale meat and blubber earlier this year.

UNITED KINGDOM: Delegates from 37 countries opened the 53rd meeting of the International Whaling Commission in London by turning
down a sanctuary for whales in the Pacific Ocean. Twenty countries voted in favour of the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary, thirteen against it, and
four abstained, and thus a necessary three-quarters majority was not reached. Against the Sanctuary proposal were: Japan, Norway, Korea, China,
Denmark, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, Panama and the Republic
of Guinea. In favour were: Argentina, Australia, Chile, Finland, Germany, India, Mexico, Monaco, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland,
New Zealand, Austria, Brazil, France, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. Abstained: Ireland, Oman, Morocco and
the Solomon Islands. / The first official British Airways pet passengers to enjoy immediate release to their owners without quarantine have flown
in to the UK from Bermuda. / A stinking greasy substance thought to be vegetable oil has smothered a twelve-mile stretch of Welsh coastline and
bathing beaches, near Holyhead on the island of Anglesey in North Wales. a coastguard official said on Saturday. It may have come from a ship
that illegally flushed its tanks close to shore / The first conviction of a private individual for the destruction of a house martin's nest on his home,
was made in Stamford, Lincolnshire. The culprit was fined £250 for destroying the nest. House martins are summer migrants to Britain from
Africa and are protected species.

Latin America 

HONDURAS: A New Zealand woman was shot four times in the stomach and her Israeli boyfriend was killed during an armed robbery in the Central American nation of Honduras. The couple were trekking in the Pico Bonito National Park, near the country's northern Carribbean coast on July 11. They had travelled by bus to the rainforest park, south east of the town of La Ceiba, and had begun walking when they passed by two men on a motorcycle. The two men returned and held-up the pair at gunpoint. 

GALAPAGOS MARINE RESERVE RECOMMENDED AS WORLD HERITAGE SITE
Ecuador's Minister of the Environment, Lourdes Luque de Jaramillo, is preparing the
country for the likely declaration of the Galapagos Marine Reserve as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This wider ocean area surrounds the 19
Galapagos Islands which were listed as a World Heritage Site in 1978. In the mean time, at least 35 sea lions were found dead and mutilated in
Galapagos Islands. Acting on an anonymous tip, officials of the Galapagos National Park discovered the bodies washed up on the beach, with
their teeth and genitalia removed. Authorities suspect that the sea lions were killed to sell the body parts as aphrodisiacs in Asia.

EL SALVADOR, GUATEMALA AND HONDURAS: will receive a tri-national $21 million loan from the IDB to support sustainable
development in the shared geography of the Upper Lempa Basin. The project represents the IDB's first tri-national project in a frontier region, and
is seen as "an important advance in the overall integration of the three countries and the Central American Isthmus." Support for the project comes
from a variety of funds within the IDB and donor countries, including the Nordic Development Fund, the German GTZ, the Norwegian Fund, the
Japan Special Fund and the Spanish Trust Fund. The Upper Lempa Basin is considered "a strategic location for intraregional trade and ecotourism."

North America

CANADA: Canada's insistence that forest and farmland "carbon sinks" play a major role in efforts to reduce greenhouse gases comes under fire in a
new report that challenges Ottawa to shift gears before critical international climate negotiations resume next week. "Taking Credit: Canada and
the Role of Sinks in International Climate Negotiations" was released today by the David Suzuki Foundation and the West Coast Environmental
Law Association. For further information and to download a copy of the position paper, technical summary and full report, go to
http://www.davidsuzuki.org/sinks.asp

Alberta: Parks Canada officials are struggling to contain an outbreak of anthrax among the bison in Alberta's Wood Buffalo National Park.

British Columbia: Environmentalists are angry over a decision by the province's new Liberal Party government decision to lift a three-year
Grizzly Bear hunting moratorium. Grizzly bears once ranged across western North America but are now found only in western Canada, a few
northern US states and Alaska. British Columbia is home of a quarter of the bears. Environmentalists estimate that there are between 4,000 and
6,000 grizzly bears in the province, while provincial biologists and hunters put the number up to 13,000. Pro-hunting groups estimate that
hunting trips, sold mostly to foreign tourists, contribute C$200 million ($133 million) annually to the province's economy. At least 230 bears
were killed "legally" last year.

UNITED STATES: An estimated 58.2 million Americans are expected to visit national parks this year on vacation, taking traffic jams and long
commutes with them.

Oregon: Farmers rigged an irrigation line into a canal in defiance of a federal order that has blocked water for crops to save endangered fish. In
April, the government shut down an irrigation canal serving land in the Klamath Project to protect endangered sucker fish in Upper Klamath Lake
and threatened coho salmon in the Klamath River.

Florida: The Bush administration revealed a dramatically scaled-back plan to open about 1.5 million acres of the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil
and gas exploration. The area, known as Lease Sale 181, originally covered 5.9 million acres and came as close as 17 miles to Pensacola in
Florida's Panhandle. But three-fourths of the plan were cut - mainly by eliminating drilling east of the Florida-Alabama state line - after
opposition from the president's brother and environmentalists nationwide.

California: A team of biologists involved in the California Condor Recovery Plan recently switched the first condor egg produced in the wild in
fifteen years, just before it was about to hatch, with a fake one. The real egg was taken to Los Angeles and placed with "a very experienced" pair of
condors at the Los Angeles Zoo. They were successful in hatching it and are now raising this first chick produced in the wild since 1986. In the
1980's, California condor populations reached a low of just 22 birds. Through captive breeding programs at LA Zoo, the San Diego Wild Animal
Park, and the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho, there are now 59 wild condors in California and Arizona and another 127 birds
living in captivity.

 

ECO-EVENTS

A worldwide selection of ecotourism and related events during the next 3 months:

September 24-27, Amazon Ecotour 2001/ BRAZIL
September 25-28, PATA Americas Travel Mart/ MEXICO
September 27-October 1, 3rd Iran Intl Tourism Exhibition/ IRAN
October 1-3, TravelMart LatinAmerica/ CHILE
October 3-6, NPRA Congress for Recreation and Parks/ USA
October 3-6, SPRE Leisure Research Symposium/ USA
October 3-5, eTravel World Conference/ USA
October 4-6, ATLAS 10th Anniversary/ Workshop on Marine Ecotourism/ IRELAND
October 14-16, Celebrating the Earth in the New Millennium/ GHANA
October 17-18, Seminar on ecotourism as a tool for Sust. Dev./ KAZAKHSTAN
October 23-26, Ecotourism Association of Australia National Conference/ AUSTRALIA
October 25-26, BTC Cultural Conference/ DENMARK
October 29-30, Sustainable eco-tourism/ MALAYSIA
October 31- November 2, Tourism in the 21st century/ AUSTRALIA

 

Regional Ecotourism Conferences and Seminars

Upcoming events:

Conference on the Development and Management of
Ecotourism in Desert Areas

Preparatory Conference for the International Year of Ecotourism, 2002

Algeria, 22-24 January 2002

Conference on Ecotourism for the Asia-Pacific Region

Preparatory Conference for the International Year of Ecotourism, 2002

Malé, Maldives, 3-5 March 2002

Conference on Ecotourism for the South Pacific Islands

Preparatory Conference for the International Year of Ecotourism, 2002

Fiji, 14-15 April 2002

 

 

Preparations underway for International Year of Ecotourism 2002

WTO is holding a series of regional seminars in preparation for the International Year of Ecotourism 2002. The first was held in Maputo, Mozambique in March. Further regional seminars are scheduled for the Americas—in Cuiaba, Brazil from August 22-24; for Europe—focusing on mountain areas—from September 12-15 in St Johann, Austria; for islands and coastal areas—in the Seychelles, from December 8-10; for desert areas—in Algeria in November; and for Asia—in the Maldives during the first quarter of 2002.

The regional seminars are being used to compile information for the IYE World Ecotourism Summit, to be held in Quebec, Canada from May 19-22, 2002 and for the United Nation's Earth Summit (Rio+10) in Johannesburg next year.

In the Maputo seminar, WTO Chief of Sustainable Development of Tourism, Eugenio Yunis, warned that lack of suitable controls could threaten the very future of this sector.

"Unsustainable ecotourism is putting at risk the survival of the natural environment that is the very bedrock of the ecotourism business and, more serious still, detracts from and even discredits this activity," he said.

Various elements needed to guarantee the long term sustainability of any ecotourism project were highlighted by Mr. Yunis in Maputo. They included:

  • Ensuring that it contributes to the conservation of natural areas and the sustainable development of adjoining lands and communities.

  • Creating specific strategies to avoid anarchic and disorderly development.

  • Providing efficient coordination between public and private sectors, including the active involvement of local communities in the planning, developing, managing and regulating of ecotourism projects.

  • Minimizing the impact of tourism accommodation, transport facilities and any activities organized for tourists.

  • Ensuring that a reasonable proportion of income from tourism is channelled into local communities and into conserving natural heritage.

  • Managing the movement of tourists to avoid overcrowding, and carrying out continuous monitoring of the visitors' impact on the environment.

    Other activities being organized by WTO for the International Year of Ecotourism include the publication of a guide to the sustainable development and management of tourism in national parks and protected areas, being prepared jointly with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Conservation Union, as well as a market research programme in the main tourism generating markets.

The WTO/UNEP logo for the International Year of Ecotourism features a boy peering through binoculars over a globe and captures the essential elements of ecotourism: flora, fauna, earth, air and water.

 

 

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