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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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Educating tourists about biodiversity: can this help protect Australian rainforest? Dr Jenny Hill School of Geography an


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    1. Educating tourists about biodiversity: can this help protect Australian rainforest? • Dr Jenny Hill • School of Geography and Environmental Management • UWE, Bristol

    2. Presentation outline • 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

    3. Introducing rainforest diversity & ecotourism • 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

    4. How is rainforest diversity used in ecotourism? • 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 …….

    5. examples of: • - the Daintree Discovery Centre • - Crocodylus Rainforest Village • in the Wet Tropics World Heritage • Area (WTWHA)

    6. The Daintree Discovery Centre

    7. Crocodylus Rainforest Village

    8. Visitor education and rainforest protection • Field site • Crocodylus Rainforest Village • 1.75km circular ropewalk • specific biodiversity • information provided for • the walk

    9. Research methods • 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

    10. Biodiversity information sheets …

    11. sheets read by visitors at specified points along the • ropewalk • position of sheets marked by numbered markers

    12. Results • 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)

    13. three aspects recorded significantly different visitor responses • according to receipt of biodiversity info: • 74% of visitors who used the info said they were • satisfied/very satisfied with their learning, compared to 33% of • visitors without info

    14. in terms of knowledge, visitors who used the biodiversity • sheets gained significantly higher results in the biodiversity quiz • the mean quiz score for those receiving info was 69% • compared to 43% for those not receiving info • this was new learning that took place on site

    15. visitors did not notably alter their attitude towards • 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.’

    16. Discussion • 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

    17. educational impact of biodiversity sheets was high as new • 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

    18. Can ecotourism protect rainforests more widely? • 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

    19. Negative impacts • 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

    20. Conclusions • 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