24 March 2006 - Wildlife watching is fast becoming a multi-million
if not multi-billion dollar industry with the potential to
fight poverty by pumping vital income into local communities
and conservation initiatives.
The findings come from a new report launched today at the
meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
taking place in Curitiba, Brazil.
Robert Hepworth, Executive Secretary of the United Nations
Environment Programme’s Convention on Migratory Species
of Wild Animals (UNEP/CMS) which commissioned the report,
said the study underlined that many wild animals were “worth
far more alive than dead”.
“It is clear that sensitive and well managed whale,
dolphin, gorilla and bird watching can generate real and
long lasting economic returns when compared with the often
short term income from catching them for food, processing
and trade,” he added.
People whale watching, for example, are spending over a
billion US dollars a year on this activity benefiting close
to 500 communities globally says the report Wildlife Watching
“Indeed the report goes further, showing that a far
wider range of species are attracting tourists and sight
seers: from bats and butterflies in the United States up
to sting rays in the Cayman Islands," he added.
The report, produced in collaboration with the tourism
group TUI, focuses on 12 case studies to highlight the growing
economic importance of wildlife watching while flagging
some of the pitfalls that may arise through poor or insensitive
Visitors can cause changes in animal behaviour and physiology
including increased levels of stress hormones in the blood
and reduced time spent feeding or resting.
Meanwhile, excessive visitation can damage habitats such
as coral reefs or turtle nesting sites.
Some birds can be highly sensitive to noise, flash photography,
and brightly coloured clothing. Glow worms reduce intensity
of their glow – used to attract other insects –
if caught in torchlight beams used to guide tourists on
glow-worm watching tours.
A string of concrete recommendations are made on how best
to promote environmentally, economically and socially sound
wildlife watching, including advice to visitors, drivers
Zoning schemes, special management areas, fee programmes
and visitors schemes are meant to regulate the activity
on a broader scale.
Paola Deda, coordinator of CMS’s wildlife watching
initiative, said: “The motto ‘Watch—Don’t
Touch' might sum up the advice emerging from this research.
Tourists need to also respect basic rules. These include:
no physical contact with animals, safety distances and no
visits if you are ill, up to the removal of litter and the
sensible use of flash photography. This should be accompanied
by careful planning on the part of the responsible local
or national authorities”.
Some Case Studies from the CMS Report
The Praia de Forte Turtle Visitor Center, part of a network
of centers under Brazil’s Projecto TArtaruga MARinha
(TAMAR) initiative, is receiving half a million visitors
a year. In 2003, this one centre generated net revenues
of close to $500,000 – equivalent to around 17 per
cent of Projecto TAMAR’s annual budget of nearly $3
Crane watching has become a popular past time at Müritz
National Park over the last decade or so. The park now generates
over Euro 13 million, up from zero in 1990, supporting nearly
630 full-time jobs.
The indirect value of the park and its wildlife are considerably
higher with the location and its migrant birds helping to
promote tourism in the region during the low season.
An estimated 150,000 people visit the Serengeti annually
in order to see its famous wildlife. Based on 2003 figures,
the park generates income of $ 5.5 million from tourists.
Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas, is home to 1.5
million Mexican free-tailed bats which flock in the evening
to feed. The spectacle attracts between 200 and 1,500 people
The overall economic value resulting is more than twice
the direct expenditure of the visitors of more than $3 million
on meals, accommodation and transport.
This does not include the benefits to local farmers and
others from the 14,000 kg of insects eaten by the bats each
Other revenue raising case studies include:
· Little penguin watching at Phillip Island Nature
Park in Australia where admission fees raise over AUS $6
million a year with another AUS $ 2.5 million generated
by sales of souvenirs, food and drinks.
· Gorilla watching in Uganda – here some 8,000
visitors a year pay about $350 each for permits.
· Whale shark watching in the Seychelles generates
$35,000 in direct income of which $20,500 went to support
the Marine Conservation Society’s whale shark monitoring
programme. There is $1.75 million in indirect expenditure
TUI is also developing support via tourism for the conservation
of various species including whales and dolphins in Tenerife
and La Gomera, Canary Islands and in Samana Bay in the Dominican
“International tour operators can contribute to improving
performance and supporting conservation” states Dr.
Michael Iwand, Executive Director of Corporate Environmental
Management at TUI.
“The health of ecosystems and species is very much
at the heart of the tourism business, as animals are often
one of the main attractions in tourist destinations. This
means, however, that it is necessary to understand thoroughly
the effects of tourism on wildlife to provide better monitoring,
visitor management and controls on wildlife watching,”
Notes to Editors
The full text of the study is available at:
Click here to download only the text of the
The 8th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on
Biological Diversity is held in, Curitiba, Brazil, 20 to
For more information please contact Nick Nuttall, Spokesperson,
Office of the Executive Director, United Nations Environment
Programme (UNEP), Nairobi, Kenya.Tel: +254 20 7623084, Mobile
in Kenya +254 (0) 733 632755, Mobile when traveling +41
79 596 57 37, Fax +254 2 623692, e-mail email@example.com
If there is no prompt response, please contact Elisabeth
Waechter, UNEP Associate Media Officer, on Tel: +254 20
7623088, Mobile: +254 720 173968, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paola Deda, External Relations, Partnerships and Media,
CMS Secretariat, Bonn, Germany on Tel: +49.228.815 2462,
Wolf Michael Iwand, Executive Director, Group Head Corporate
Environmental Management, TUI AG, Tel. +49.511.566 2200,
Secretariat of the Convention
on Biological Diversity
Great Apes Survival Project (GRASP)