Educating tourists about biodiversity: can this help protect Australian rainforest?
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Educating tourists about biodiversity: can this help protect Australian rainforest? Dr Jenny Hill School of Geography and Environmental Management UWE, Bristol. Presentation outline. This talk will: Introduce rainforest diversity and ecotourism

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Presentation outline Australian rainforest?

  • This talk will:

  • Introduce rainforest diversity and ecotourism

  • Give examples of how rainforest diversity is being used in ecotourism

  • Examine whether educating visitors about biological diversity can help protect rainforest in Australia

  • Assess whether ecotourism can be used to protect rainforests more widely


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Introducing rainforest diversity & ecotourism Australian rainforest?

  • tropical rainforests harbour over 50% of the world’s species on just 7% of the land area

  • over 60% of all known species of plant are found in tropical rainforests

  • 90% of primates are found in tropical rainforests

  • visitors are increasingly attracted to the biome, as ecotourists:

‘environmentally responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well being of local people’

Ecotourism Society


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How is rainforest diversity used in ecotourism? Australian rainforest?

  • a defining characteristic of ecotourism is promotion of

  • environmental awareness

  • possibly promoted by educating visitors about the

  • rainforest ecosystem

  • visitors can be educated by ranger interpretation and

  • conveying info via interpretation centres, guided walks and

  • notice boards/info sheets

  • Australia leads the way in terms of ecotourism and visitor

  • interpretation …….


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  • examples of: Australian rainforest?

  • - the Daintree Discovery Centre

  • - Crocodylus Rainforest Village

  • in the Wet Tropics World Heritage

  • Area (WTWHA)


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The Daintree Discovery Australian rainforest?

Centre


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Crocodylus Australian rainforest?

Rainforest Village


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Visitor education and rainforest protection Australian rainforest?

  • Field site

  • Crocodylus Rainforest Village

  • 1.75km circular ropewalk

  • specific biodiversity

  • information provided for

  • the walk


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  • Research methods Australian rainforest?

  • 135 visitors sampled in July/August 2004

  • written questionnaire and biodiversity quiz given to

  • visitors with (n=73) and without (n=62) biodiversity

  • information

  • 16 biodiversity information sheets produced

  • covered evolution of rainforest, through forest structure, to

  • more complex ecosystem processes and rainforest uses,

  • threats & conservation


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Biodiversity information sheets … Australian rainforest?


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  • Results Australian rainforest?

  • visitors expressed a high degree of satisfaction with their

  • visit whether they received biodiversity info or not

  • highest levels of satisfaction for:

  • - encountering forest structure/trees (4.31)

  • - exploring something new/different (4.12)

  • - enjoying sounds, smells and feel of the forest (4.10)

  • lowest levels of satisfaction recorded for:

  • - acquiring a sense of forest history (2.85)

  • - seeing the forest wildlife (3.17)


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  • 74% of visitors who used the info said they were

  • satisfied/very satisfied with their learning, compared to 33% of

  • visitors without info


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  • visitors did not notably alter their attitude towards responses

  • rainforest conservation or the way they would behave as

  • tourists in rainforests

  • they felt they were already conservation-oriented and

  • behaved as environmentally responsible tourists:

  • ‘I was already strongly convinced that it [the rainforest] should be strongly protected’

  • ‘I think that I am already an ethical walker, as far as staying on the path, not touching or breaking things etc.’


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  • Discussion responses

  • visitors were satisfied with gaining a purely emotional

  • experience

  • they were dissatisfied with the learning experience if they

  • did not have biodiversity info

  • visitors did not believe they learnt a great deal by

  • exposure to the forest alone, but they did believe they

  • learnt a lot with info

  • perceived learning can enhance the tourist experience

  • learning supported the emotional encounter with the forest


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  • educational impact of biodiversity sheets was high as new responses

  • knowledge was acquired

  • interpretation provides a rounded tourist experience:

  • offers an emotional and intellectual experience

  • ecosystem biodiversity should be valued as an

  • ecotourism resource:

  • - helps tourists appreciate biodiversity

  • - did not alter existing beliefs in conservation and

  • responsible tourism


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Can ecotourism protect rainforests more widely? responses

  • Positive impacts

  • tourism can provide revenue for conservation efforts within

  • rainforest parks and for reforestation etc

  • local communities can earn supplementary income

  • ecotourism offers the potential for ecosystem sustainability

  • as income is earned from preserving the rainforest


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  • Negative impacts responses

  • contact with tourists can cause behavioural changes in

  • animals e.g. studies of chimpanzees in Uganda

  • more visitors can degrade the ecosystem e.g. soil

  • erosion studies in Costa Rican rainforest

  • economic distribution of tourism revenue can be unequal

  • and many companies do not pay for environmental

  • monitoring


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Conclusions responses

  • careful planning of ecotourist sites

  • and

  • monitoring of visitor attitudes and impacts

  • can

  • ensure rainforest diversity is used to educate visitors and

  • to support conservation of the ecosystem that they come to

  • see


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