Argument: Ecotourism can disturb wildlife

Issue Report: Ecotourism


  • Jack Coburn Isaacs. “The limited potential of ecotourism to contribute to wildlife conservation”. 2000 – “Some of the external costs include damage to the living resources that ecotourism is intended to protect. In Canada, tourists are alleged to harass polar bears by approaching too closely. Whales have been harassed and even killed in Quebec (Anonymous 1998) and the Canary Islands (Padgett and Begley 1996). Wildlife observers drive cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) off Kenyan preserves, exposing the cats to danger and the risk of inbreeding. Sea turtles are distracted by electric lights at shoreside tourist facilities. Tourists’ feeding of wildlife has led to increased dependency on humans by wildlife (Padgett and Begley 1996, Roberts 1998). In a survey of United States National Park superintendents studying the adverse impacts associated with tourists, 84.1% reported negative impacts of visitors on native flora and fauna (Wang and Miko 1997). Outdoor recreation is a major cause of species endangerment in the United States (Czech and Krausman 1997).”
That whale was fortunate compared with the minke whale struck and killed near Barnstable, Mass., in 1998. Both accidents were caused by whale-watching ships loaded with people eager to see the behemoths.
From watching whales in New England to tracking polar bears on the tundra to swimming with dolphins in the Pacific, well-meaning tourists are putting increasing pressure on animals worldwide, new studies show. The problem isn’t limited to hordes of people degrading the environment. In some cases, ecotourism unwittingly appears to be killing the wildlife it seeks to protect.”
…”For other species, ecotourism can pose a more subtle threat. For example, researchers report that meerkats and mongoose have caught tourist-borne diseases in Africa.”
…”Subtle disturbance On the south shore of Hudson Bay in Churchill, Manitoba, entrepreneurs in the 1980s built school-bus-size vehicles on top of monster-truck tires to take people to view 12-foot-tall polar bears. Some 20,000 tourists and scientists each fall safely gawk at scores of bears during a six-week period beginning in mid-October.
…”The problem: The bears go ‘on alert’ every time a tundra vehicle goes by, according to Markus Dyke, a researcher from the University of Manitoba. Because the bears are living off fat reserves, they should be sleeping or resting. Using their limited reserves to go on alert diminishes the fat they will carry into the winter – fat that they need for more important activities such as hunting or defending themselves.”