What is Ecotourism and How Does it Help Parrots?
Parrots call many places on Earth home. Some soar high over the skies of South America, while others forage in places like Australia, Africa, and India. But no matter what species of parrot you look at, there are challenges that many of those birds face in their native habitat. Issues like global warming, habitat destruction, and other concerns have made it harder for many species of parrot to thrive. One solution that is being explored is that of Ecotourism. In this article, we’ll take a look at what it is and how it can help parrots all over the planet.
What is Ecotourism?
You wake up from a peaceful night’s sleep and walk over to your balcony. Lush, green trees come into focus. You hear the echoes of birds singing and calling to one another surrounding you. You can hear the distant sound of water flowing as you see that you are surrounded by life that you have only seen in movies and documentaries. You eat new, delicious food that excites your taste buds as you prepare for the day. Soon, you will embark on a journey through the landscape seeing animals fly, swim and forage in their natural habitat as you learn about the way they live their lives from experts.
If this sounds like a good experience to you, you are not alone. Many people choose to travel to areas far from their homes to have experiences just like this! While the experience can vary, they almost always include aspects of the above situation.
Ecotourism is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “tourism directed toward exotic, often threatened, natural environments, intended to support conservation efforts and observe wildlife.” It is a way for people to see, firsthand, how threatened animals live their natural habitats. Reading or watching information is one thing, but it is completely different when it is also experienced. Ecotourism helps people feel and see for themselves how animals live and also how they are affected by challenges they face in their habitat due to things like deforestation, global warming and trapping. While there are advantages and disadvantages to consider, ecotourism is one way people are trying to help animals all over the world.
In general, those who choose to travel in this way and try the ecotourism experience are guided by a few basic principles and goals such as:
- To travel responsibly and in a way that has the least negative impact on the environment and local populations of humans and animals
- To increase education and awareness of environmental issues
- To help conservation efforts either through monetary means or volunteering
How Does Ecotourism Help Parrots?
You might be aware that parrots on our planet are being affected by a variety of challenges in their natural habitats. While the issues can vary depending on the species and location of the birds, most of them are caused by human activities. Things such as global warming, trapping and deforestation have contributed to the hardship that many parrots face.
For example, let's take a look at the Red-fronted Macaw. They are native to a small area of south-central Bolivia. Unfortunately, they are listed as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List, which is a list that is published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as an indicator of the health of the world's biodiversity. Being assigned this status means that they are at extremely high risk of becoming extinct.
Some of the issues that have led to their status are:
- Habitat loss (about 40% by the 1990s due to agricultural use of the land)
- Animals brought in by humans have slowed the regeneration of the ground cover due to grazing
- Macaws are often treated as pests due to them eating some crops because much of their primary food sources have been cleared for agricultural use
- Illegal trapping
One example of how ecotourism is helping this bird is the Red-fronted Macaw Program located in the forests of Cochabamba, central Bolivia. They list their goals on their website as helping to prevent extinction, conserve the sites and habitats for birds and other wildlife and to “alleviate poverty by creating alternative livelihoods and improved living standards” for the local people there.
They do these things by offering tourists a way to experience the splendor of the Red-fronted Macaw in person through various activities. They describe on their website that they have a lodge dedicated to tourists where they can see the birds up close and be attended to by local residents which provides them more “diversity of income sources in a region largely dedicated to agriculture.”
They describe how the funds they get through tourism help the parrots by helping to prevent habitat loss partially by the creation of the Red-fronted Macaw Reserve which covers 124 acres. This reserve helps protect the largest known breeding colony for the macaws. They also state that they have been able to help find a balance of wildlife and human populations by raising awareness and helping locals to find alternative, less negatively impactful ways of dealing with the macaws eating their crops. They also have been able to increase education for locals in and around the area through their schools, programs and signage along major roadways in the region.
There are other organizations all over the world such as the Birds Australia Gluepot Reserve helping to turn tourism into conservation awareness and assistance. Gluepot Reserve is located in the Australian state of South Australia. Their website states that the land for the reserve was purchased after it was discovered by volunteers that large numbers of an endangered bird, the Black-eared miner was discovered to be living there. Over 2,400 people and organizations helped raise the funds to purchase the land and the Gluepot Reserve was established. Gluepot helps protect six nationally threatened bird species that call the area home. One of those species is the Major Mitchell cockatoo, also known as the pink cockatoo. Visitors can enjoy camping, tours and environmental education short courses.
Glupot celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2022. It has won several awards for its contribution to scientific research and conservation.
The Potential Downsides of Ecotourism
It is important to consider that although ecotourism is considered by many to be beneficial, there are also people that warn of possible downsides. Some issues people have brought up are:
Increased human activities can potentially become an issue if access to natural resources isn’t closely monitored. Considerations also need to be made for litter, noise and potential impact on the ecosystem in the area. Local wildlife can also be impacted if too many people are allowed to interfere with their routines such as nesting and breeding.
Local people can become displaced or stressed due to developments for ecotourism such as lodging.
Money generated through ecotourism that isn’t monitored or processed by trustworthy organizations could end up not going to conservation efforts or could be directed back to other countries instead of into the local community.
Local animals that are forced to interact with humans might be negatively impacted if those in charge don’t responsibly allow such activities in a way that isn’t harmful to those animals.
How to Responsibly Support Ecotourism as a Tourist
If you’re thinking about traveling and supporting ecotourism efforts, there are some things that you can do to help make sure as much of your money and time as possible goes to helping the animals and the people it's intended to support.
Research the location and activities you will be supporting. Read reviews, verify the information and claims that are provided and learn more about how the land and people are impacted by the organization and its activities.
Respect local wildlife and people while you are traveling. Clean up your areas properly, avoid picking plants or flowers and keep a respectful distance from the animals around you. You should also avoid interacting with animals unless the activities you are participating in specifically include that.
Learn about the local people and cultures in the area. By doing this, you can help ensure that you will feel more comfortable with the differences in culture as compared to your own. Try to learn a few important phrases in the local language or read about the different kinds of foods that may be provided.
Ultimately, ensuring that ecotourism is helpful and not negative to local animals and people comes down to tourists doing research before they travel and those running activities to be responsible and honest in how they do so. Done correctly, ecotourism can make a positive impact on environmental issues that matter the most to us.
Fun Fact: Parrots from all over the world require different kinds of food to sustain them and keep them healthy depending on their species. No matter where a person travels, it is always fascinating to see how birds take advantage of their unique environment to get the nutrition they need. Bird Street Bistro offers parrot owners a way to get a variety of the nutrients their parrots have in the wild to their birds without having to travel the world. Check out our sample pack to see how enriching Bird Street Bistro products can be for your feathered friends.
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