Positive and Negative Impacts associated with Non-Consumptive Wildlife Tourism

Essay, 2007

23 Pages, Grade: 2,3


Table of Contents


Discussion of positive impacts

Discussion of negative impacts

Possibilities to alleviate negative environmental and social impacts




Word Count: 2694 words


The aim of wildlife tourism “is to visit a destination in order to see and gain an understanding of the local fauna without harming the natural environment“ (Mintel, 2006). Duffus & Dearden (1990) developed three dimensions of wildlife – human interaction which are illustrated in Figure 1. This study focuses on non-consumptive wildlife tourism. This form of niche tourism includes observing and interacting with animals without harming them with a special interest in wildlife conservation (Higginbottom 2004, Duffus & Dearden, 1990).

Figure 1 – The three dimensions of wildlife tourism

illustration not visible in this excerpt

The future for wildlife tourism is predicted to grow rapidly within the next 10 years. A shift away from the single adventurers to a more general target group is forecasted (Mintel, 2006) leading eventually to mass tourism and more negative impacts.

The question is where the desire, to be close to nature, comes from. One view is, that “humans evolved in the natural environment, changing in response to it” (Knopf, 1987). Animals have provided much of the food supply for most societies (Orams, 2002). Furthermore, the every day life of the human being demands directed attention and full power. There is the desire to be ‘free’, unconventional and enjoy life (Newsome, 2005).

Furthermore, Kim & Jamal (2007) introduce that the today’s society is inauthentic and isolated, driving people to travel in search for an authentic experience. This could take the form of staged authenticity - making a product out of it (Goffman, 1963 cited in Kim & Jamal, 2007). The desire to experience nature is stimulated through the media (Orams, 2002). In addition a growing concern for the environment, visible e.g. through the Kyoto protocol, enhances this phenomenon (Mapleweb, 2005). Fredrickson & Anderson (1999: 30) found that a close relationship to animals leads to a decrease in depression and stress enhancing social interaction as the natural experience enables the tourist a “step away from the stresses of life.”

Wildlife also raises the question how the relationship between humans and animals is defined. Are animals subordinate to humans, equal or higher (Orams, 2002)? From an anthropocentric point of view, humans are the centre of things or peak of evolutionary chain. Humans want to control everything including also nature and wildlife. This evokes the issue if animals have souls and feelings. From an ecocentric approach humans are part of the nature and the whole environment not putting their selves above the animal (Btgreenparty, 2007).

The positive and negative factors affecting on different stakeholders of the wildlife tourism product are discussed in the next sections. Stakeholders are made visible in Appendix 1.

Discussion of positive impacts

Wildlife tourism constitutes “a peak emotional experience” for tourists. The enjoyment of the tourist can be influenced through the intensity of the wildlife i.e. proximity, the number of animals viewed and their behaviour, number of fellow passengers, duration of the trip… (Newsome, 2005:22). “… Animal contact has significant health benefits and […] positively influences transient psychological states, morale, and feelings of self worth” (Orams, 2002). This could be seen in a report, where swimming with dolphins helped ill persons to get well (BBC, 2005). The study of Schänzel and McIntosh (2003) of Penguins in the Otago Peninsula, New Zealand revealed that benefits for visitors are:

- higher environmental friendly awareness
- experience of contributing to and helping conservation
- increased knowledge from guided tours
- people with less contact to animals can come closer to them

The author would like to add that tourism operators can profit when tourists have a memorable experience through wildlife, as satisfied customers may ensure repeat business.

Wildlife tourism helps the preservation of the natural balance and ecology. Higginbottom (2004) supports that: it “is […] far more conductive to wildlife conservation than most alternative uses of the land”, e.g. agriculture. Furthermore, endangered species can be assisted through supplementary feeding, ensuring their survival (Orams, 2002). Wildlife supports the analysis of animals, which helps the mankind for research and development. However this is abused by e.g. the Japanese justifying whale hunting through research but using it for consumerism (Greenpeace International, 2005).

Wildlife contributes to conservation and community projects in developing countries. It increases awareness through the establishment of codes of conduction for wildlife tourists (Newsome, 2005). A “close interaction with wild animals may well increase concern for wildlife conservation amongst many tourists” (WTA inc., 2005).

The support of the local community is essential for protected areas. This is often linked to the direct benefits, which local communities get from the protected areas (Sekhar, 2003). However, a danger discovered by Sekhar (2003) is, that biologists claim wildlife species are at risk if local people are given priority over conservation objectives (Sekhar, 2003). This raises the question of the relation of animals and human beings, as mentioned earlier.

Ecotourism is very profitable to the economy of many destinations. They use wildlife tourism as a tool for economic development and environmental protection especially in developing countries (Sekhar, 2003). For example, Galapagos Island, Nepal and Monteverde in Costa Rica are visited by curious tourists and adventurers. With the time infrastructure, accommodation and transportation improved, increasing the standard of living. But finally this was leading to mass demand (Honey, 1999). In the Galapagos, the majority of tourism is based on nature with an estimated worth of wildlife tourism of over £60 million (Mintel, 2006). Positive outcomes for countries like Kenya and its National Parks are the employment and use of local process. Whale watching in the United Kingdom attracted 121,000 whale watchers and contributed over £6 million to the economy in 1998 (Hoyt, 2000). This can cause a multiplier effect leading to higher employment and financial benefits for the local community. Inhabitants can operate the lodges or take part in the management process. There is an increased provision of services and facilities, better planning (e.g. water, energy, training), management and operation of wildlife tourism. Furthermore the local population gains information provided on wildlife for a deeper understanding and knowledge (Newsome, 2005). For example in Uganda, the National Wildlife Policy of 1994 demands revenue sharing through the help of a ‘Park Management Advisory Committee’ where locals are represented (Archbald and Naughton-Treves, 2001). The amount of revenue through entrance fees, game viewing and photography is considerable. Tourists pay US$ 250 to view gorillas for one hour. The local income per capita is less than US$ 220 (Sekhar, 2003). Therefore wildlife tourism raised the disposable income. On the other hand, prices increase where tourism occurs, which could be higher than elsewhere in the country, causing a stronger financial burden for the locals.

Discussion of negative impacts

Newsome (2005) identified three categories of negative impacts: access, observation and close contact feeding. Access to wildlife can occur through foot, road, plane or boat. A direct impact is also death through vehicles (Reynolds & Braithwaite 2001). Burger (1981) examined the effects of humans on birds at Jamaica Bay by foot. Birds were flushed from their ponds when people made rapid movements. Fewer birds were visible when people were present. The major problems of access via road are clearing, construction of the road, barrier effects, noise and road kill. This can result in stress, disorientations and avoidance of the animals (Newsome, 2005). Davis et al. (1997) considered whale sharks. Diving or observing them from a boat caused health problems in the population or aggressiveness.

Food is used to attract animals, enabling the tourist to a close view and interaction with the animals. Orams (2002) particularly investigated the impacts of feeding on dingoes on Fraser Island, Australia. Changes in breeding or group size occurred. Animals got dependent on the food received and used to a close contact with humans. Therefore they are in danger of losing the ability and skills to forage for their selves and are seeking to areas where many humans are, incorporating higher risks due to for example roads. The species amongst each other became more aggressive in their procedure of getting food. The health of the animals is threatened through artificial food leading to injury and diseases (Orams, 2002) as there are not enough nutrients in the food (Higginbottom, 2004). Hunger always played an important role in nature as the weakest one will die according through the theory of Darwin (Darwin-online, 2007). Normally animals die when they find not enough food. This natural cycle is interrupted: they do not die or they stop breeding due to disruption. Besides feeding, breeding is very essential to be considered. For example, parent birds’ abandonment of the nest or eagles are known to leave when humans approach (Green and Higginbottom, 2001). The clearing of the habitat or its modification, which is undertaken for the camping of tourists, can take away resources for feeding and building accommodation. Appendix 2 gives an overview of the ecological impacts of wildlife tourism.

The animals them selves are heavily affected through wildlife tourism. “Experimental vessel approaches to Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins in Tasmania revealed that during approaches, focal dolphin groups became more compact, had higher rates of change in membership and had more erratic speeds and directions of travel” (Bejder et al., 2006). Mammals were discovered to have the most sensitive hearing amongst terrestrial vibrates (Bowles, 1995 cited in Higginbottom, 2004). They get distracted through noise made by humans. Snakes can interpret vibration differently confusing important and unimportant signals (Higginbottom, 2004). Artificial light, which helps visitors to orientate in the darkness, is also impacting on animals. Other short-term effects discovered include disruption of social activities among Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins in Hong Kong (Leung & Leung, 2003).

Hunting and fishing – exploitation has effects on the sex structure (Adamic, 1997) e.g. brown bears were shot in Slovenia, causing a genetic diversity of populations. Another example is that, 50 million butterflies are killed in Brazil to make souvenirs. (Carvalho & Mielke, 1971). The problem is, when stimuli disappear, boredom can occur or loss of natural behaviour. Insects are killed not to displease visitors during their trip (Higgionbottom, 2004). This shows that tourists do not want to give up their civilisation; therefore toilets have to be build (Dyck & Baydack, 2004). The more mainstream visitor requires well-established tourist facilities and infrastructure. These travellers are much greater in number, and therefore can destroy more. In Kenya’s Amboseli National Park, Maasai Mara Game Reserve and Nairobi National Park, “hordes of tourists came and hindered cheetahs in hunting.” It resulted in a considerable decline in this species. (World Resource Institute, 1993: 150 cited in Honey 1999). However the potential to generate a larger economic benefit to the destination when more tourists arrive is higher (Mintel, 2006). Nevertheless the drawback for the destination is that it can become dependent on wildlife tourism, e.g. Tonga’s economy is mainly based on whale watching. In the small South Pacific island community of Vava’u in Tonga it was worth US $600,000 per year (Orams, 2000). With regards to this benefit, attention needs to be drawn to the fact that no economic leakages occur, i.e. that financial gains are invested in the destination’s conservation and development schemes rather than just benefiting tour operators.


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Positive and Negative Impacts associated with Non-Consumptive Wildlife Tourism
Bournemouth University
Tourists and Destinations
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Destinations, wildlife, impacts
Quote paper
Janine Paul (Author), 2007, Positive and Negative Impacts associated with Non-Consumptive Wildlife Tourism, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/92283


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