Balance conservation and tourism Essay Example

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Challenges in Balancing Conservation and Tourism


Tourism and conservation across the globe have a symbiotic relationship. The conservation of biodiversity is an essential and integral element of the success or growth of tourism. The tourism industry can only thrive if the survival of rare and endangered species of plant and animal life in protected areas such as national parks, animal conservatories and zoos is ensured. However, for the development of tourism to be sustainable, it is important to strike a balance between the development of tourism and the opportunity cost of conservation in terms of issues such as land use in the face of increasing human population. There are several challenges to balancing tourism and conservation globally and in most cases the imbalance has negative effects for both. This essay examines some of the challenges to balancing between conservation and tourism such as human-wildlife conflict, unequal distribution of the benefits from tourism and local attitudes towards tourism as a result of local interactions with tourism. The essay examines the nature and effect of these challenges on the balance between conservation and tourism and also briefly outlines strategies which could be employed to lessen the negativities due to any imbalance. The essay draws from studies conducted on: crop raiding by wildlife around Kibale National Park in Uganda, livestock predation around Tsavo National Park in Kenya and the Maasai Steppe in Northern Tanzania, local attitudes towards tourism around Komodo National Park in Indonesia and local attitudes towards resolution of human-wildlife conflict among forest-dependent agriculturalists near Rajaji National Park in India.

Human-Wildlife Conflict

One of the major challenges in balancing conservation and tourism is human-wildlife conflict. Conflict between human beings and wildlife, which occurs as a result of both direct and indirect negative interactions, often results in economic losses and contributes to the development of negative attitudes towards tourism. This conflict usually takes a number of forms such as death or injury to both humans, crop-raiding, livestock predation, property damage, carcass poisoning, and retaliation killing (Ogra 2009: 161). It usually involves intense conflict between pastoralist, agricultural or forest-dependent peoples and a variety of wildlife ranging from large mammals such as hippos and elephants to smaller carnivorous animals such as lions, hyenas and leopards and occasionally smaller species such as monkeys (Ogra 2009: 161; Naughton-Treves 1998: 165). Human-wildlife conflict has posed difficulties in balancing conservation and tourism particularly due to the experiences of humans who have settlements in close proximity to protected areas such as wildlife parks and has led to an emergence of a “people versus parks” issue in the conservation-development dilemma (Ogra 2009, p.161). For instance, people who share the same range with large mammals such as elephants or hippos often incur a variety of direct as well as indirect costs. The direct costs include threats to life, injury and destruction of productive assets such as crops or livestock while indirect costs include labor investment (guarding crops and livestock) and lost opportunities such as making children stay home during school hours to guard crop fields or livestock. Costs associated with conservation generally have negative effects on local attitudes towards conservation and tourism while benefits are correlated with positive attitudes.

A study by Naughton-Treves (1998) demonstrates the impact of human wildlife conflict on conservation efforts by focusing on crop damage by wildlife from Kibale National Park, Uganda. The study shows that five wildlife species from the nearby Kibale National Park: baboons, bushpigs, redtail monkeys, chimpanzees and elephants were responsible for an estimated 85% of crop damage to six villages surrounding the park (Naughton-Treves 1998, p. 156). The high incidences of crop damage due to raids by animals from the park led to the development of hostile attitudes towards wildlife among the local community and generated significant opposition for conservation programs due to the significant direct and indirect costs of living in close proximity to the park. In response to significant losses due to crop raids which have at times led resulted in a subsistence crisis for some farmers, farmers from the community neighboring Kibale National Park have resorted to several defensive strategies and coping mechanisms, both legal and illegal. Legal means included guarding fields while illegal means usually entail hunting, ensnaring the animals or placing poison bait on their farms (Naughton-Treves 1998:158). In some cases, where farmers felt overwhelmed by the severity of crop loss and the resulting subsistence crisis, they abandoned cultivation altogether (Naughton-Treves 1998:158). The study shows that despite more local farmers preferring legal means to hunting, there was no significant reduction in crop loss. This increases the incentive for illegal means such as hunting and places the survival of rare and endangered species of wildlife in Kibale National Park such as chimpanzees at stake (Naughton-Treves 1998: 165).

In addition to crop raids, there are also cases where wildlife predation on livestock has posed a challenge to balancing tourism and conservation. Predation on domestic livestock by lions and other carnivores around Tsavo East National Park in Kenya has had a significant economic impact as they claim 2.4% of livestock in the surrounding ranches and exacerbate the economic situation of many pastoralist communities which live in poverty and depend almost exclusively on livestock for their livelihood (Patterson et al 2004: 510). For companies neighboring the park such as the Galana Cattle Company, the annual loss of 2.4 % of their livestock to wildlife attacks represented 2.6% of their annual value (Patterson et al 2004:515). Attacks by lions and other carnivores has not only resulted in loss of livestock as productive assets but has also led to human tragedies as an essential part of animal husbandry in East Africa involves human attendants looking after livestock. Similarly, as in the case of Kibale National Park, farmers and hunters from the neighboring community have resorted to ensnaring or poisoning the lions which reduces their population and makes them endangered species (Naughton-Treves 1998:158).

As a direct result of human-wildlife conflict, animals in protected areas are becoming increasingly vulnerable to retaliatory attacks from the host communities. In a study conducted on the Maasai Steppe in Northern Tanzania to investigate livestock predation by carnivores and the vulnerability of these carnivores to retaliatory attacks, retaliatory killings of large carnivores were identified as the most serious threat to carnivore population in the face of an ever expanding human population (Kissui 2008:1). The study showed that pastoralists in the Maasai Steppe tended to retaliate indiscriminately to livestock predation by lions, leopards and spotted hyenas. All instances of predation of livestock, especially by lions, were followed by retaliatory lion hunts These retaliatory killings, in addition to the outlawed ritual lion hunts (Ala-Mayo) which are meant to express bravery and also act as a rite of passage for the Maasai, were responsible for the drastic reduction in lion populations in the Maasai Steppe (Kissui 2008:2-4). Despite being illegal, rituals such as Ala-Mayo greatly increased the incentive for local pastoralists to participate in retaliatory lion hunts which compromises the conservation efforts of the national parks in the area.

Human-wildlife conflict has also been associated with environmental degradation in the areas in which it occurs. In the case of Tsavo East National Park, carnivore attacks on humans and livestock has made ranching unprofitable and as a result rangelands which previously supported a variety of native wildlife species have been converted to sisal plantations which continue to contract the species’ geographic range and natural habitat (Patterson et al 2004:508).

There are several strategies that can be employed to lessen the adverse effects of human wildlife conflict on the balance between conservation and tourism. In the case of livestock predation, the strategies should be anchored on enhancing host community tolerance to wildlife in protected areas. Livestock husbandry techniques should be improved to act as a deterrent to predation. This includes upgrading protection for livestock by using chain-link fencing as opposed to traditional protection methods such as brush and wooden barriers as well as incorporating the findings from research on the spatial-temporal movements of predators into land use plans which would help pastoralists avoid herding livestock in the path of predators (Kissui 2008:8). In the case of crop damage, strategies to elevate the tolerance of local communities to wildlife include the identification and cultivation of unpalatable, low-growing and profitable buffer cultivars such as sisal which would act as a buffer against animal raids as well as electric fencing. Compensation for farmers or pastoralists has also been proven to improve tolerance towards wildlife. These strategies would enhance host community tolerance towards wildlife and help strike a balance between conservation and tourism.

Unequal Distribution of Benefits from Tourism

Besides human-wildlife conflict, another significant challenge to balancing conservation and tourism is the unequal distribution of benefits from tourism and socio-economic development. For tourism to act as a sustainable form of development not only should the benefits from tourism be distributed in an equal manner but the host community must support the development of tourism to make it economically viable (Walpole & Goodwin 2001:160-161). The receipt of tourism benefits has often been correlated with more positive attitudes towards conservation. It has been demonstrated that local support for conservation efforts varies between communities depending on the perceived distribution of benefits. In cases such as around Komodo National Park where local residents are able to recognize the link or the symbiotic relationship between conservation efforts such as national parks or other protected areas and the existence of the local tourism industry, they are more likely to support these conservation efforts (Walpole & Goodwin 2001:164). To further illustrate this, in the study on crop damage around Kibale National Park, it was concluded that farmers were more likely to accept or tolerate crop damage if they perceived direct benefits from wildlife conservation (Naughton-Treves 1998:166). Conversely, where farmers felt frustrated and overwhelmed by the costs and were forced to abandon cultivation altogether, they developed strong negative attitudes towards conservation. In the study on local attitudes towards conservation and tourism around Komodo National Park, a majority of respondents reported having no contact with or deriving economic benefits from tourism. These benefits were mainly in the form of selling goods to tourists or providing services such as guiding which formed part of the income for only a third of the respondents interviewed (Walpole & Goodwin 2001:164). Some of the respondents also complained about the inflationary effect of the development of tourism- that the tourist industry had directly contributed to the increase in the prices of basic commodities and transport (Walpole & Goodwin 2001:164). Therefore, unless programs are put in place to ensure that the local community benefits from conservation efforts and the development of the tourism industry, they are less likely to support conservation efforts.

To ensure local support for conservation efforts, it is important for planners and managers in the tourism industry to ensure a fair and equitable distribution of the benefits from tourism. This could entail purposively targeting training programmes and micro-credit schemes at certain sectors of the local community and opening up job opportunities as well as local access to the tourism market to local residents (Walpole & Godwin 2001: 165). Governments should also enact policy measures to invest the proceeds from tourism back to the local area by improving infrastructure or the provision of essential services such as security to galvanize local support for conservation efforts.

Local Interactions with Tourism

Another significant challenge to balancing conservation and tourism is local attitudes towards tourism and subsequently towards conservation efforts as a result of local interactions with tourism. As demonstrated earlier in this essay, local attitudes towards protected areas for tourism or towards conservation efforts are an integral element of successful biodiversity conservation (Walpole & Goodwin 2001:160). While it has often been argued that a positive local attitude towards tourism and conservation is a primarily a result of the local community enjoying the socio-economic benefits of tourism, there are other forms of local interaction with protected areas such as animal parks which have a strong effect on local attitudes towards conservation and tourism. A study of local attitudes towards conservation and tourism around Komodo National Park, Indonesia, demonstrates some of the local interactions with tourism which may affect attitudes towards tourism. For instance, some of the respondents in the study felt that tourism was contributing to the erosion of national customs and damaging indigenous cultures. In the case study of Komodo National Park, tourist dress codes were often cited as a problematic issue by local respondents (Walpole & Goodwin 2001:164). This is particularly with regard to tourist dress codes. The study also suggests that negative experiences with the national park’s authorities or with tourists may also strongly shape local attitudes towards tourism. Local attitudes towards tourism also become less favorable as the negative impacts of tourism increase later in the tourism development lifecycle. In particular, those living in areas with a more developed tourism industry tend to develop a more negative attitude towards tourism (Walpole & Goodwin 2001: 165).

Strategies which could be used to foster positive local attitudes towards tourism and conservation include tourism industry authorities and other stakeholders such as tour operators creating visitor awareness of the cultural impact of tourism on local communities. For instance, this could help foster favorable attitudes by ensuring cultural sensitivity in the way tourists behave in the predominantly Muslim community surrounding Komodo National Park who have had little contact with foreign cultures (Walpole & Godwin 2001: 165).


Some of the challenges which result in an imbalance between conservation and tourism include human-wildlife conflict, the unequal distribution of benefits from tourism and local attitudes towards tourism as a result of local interactions with tourism. As has been demonstrated in the case of Kibale National Park (Uganda), Komodo National Park (Indonesia), Rajaji National Park (India), Tsavo National Park (Kenya) and the Maasai Steppe in Northern Tanzania, these challenges are associated with fostering negative attitudes towards tourism and conservation and reducing local support for conservation efforts. Several strategies could be employed to lessen the negativities due to the imbalance resulting from these challenges. In the case of human-wildlife conflict, this includes increasing tolerance for wildlife among local communities through better animal husbandry techniques or the use of defensive measures such as electric fences. Regarding unequal distribution of benefits from tourism and local attitudes, the strategies entail programs the local community benefits from tourism development by incorporating them as stakeholders and ensuring cultural awareness among tourists on the impact of tourism on the local community respectively.


Kissui, BM, 2008 Livestock predation by lions, leopards, spotted hyenas, and their vulnerability to retaliatory killing in the Maasai steppe, Tanzania, Animal Conservation, Vol. 11, No.5, pp. 1-10.

Naughton-Treves, L 1998, Predicting patterns of crop damage by wildlife around Kibale National Park, Uganda, Conservation Biology, Vol. 12, No.1, pp. 156-168.

Ogra, M 2008, Attitudes Toward Resolution of Human–Wildlife Conflict Among Forest-Dependent Agriculturalists Near Rajaji National Park, India, Human Ecology, Vol.37, No.1, pp 161-177.

Patterson, BD, Kasiki, SM, Selempo, E & Kays, RW 2004, Livestock predation by lions (Panthera leo) and other carnivores on ranches neighboring Tsavo National Parks, Kenya, Biological Conservation, Vol. 119, No. 4, pp.504-516.

Walpole, MJ & Goodwin, HJ 2001, Local attitudes towards conservation and tourism around Komodo National Park, Indonesia, International Journal of Interdisciplinary Environmental Conservation, Vol. 28, No.2 , pp. 160-166.