PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles

Science Policy

A Population Accounting Approach to Assess Tourism Contributions to Conservation of IUCN-Redlisted Mammal Species
Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Author: Ralf C. Buckley et al.

by Ralf C. Buckley, J. Guy Castley, Fernanda de Vasconcellos Pegas, Alexa C. Mossaz, Rochelle Steven

Over 1,000 mammal species are red-listed by IUCN, as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable. Conservation of many threatened mammal species, even inside protected areas, depends on costly active day-to-day defence against poaching, bushmeat hunting, invasive species and habitat encroachment. Many parks agencies worldwide now rely heavily on tourism for routine operational funding: >50% in some cases. This puts rare mammals at a new risk, from downturns in tourism driven by external socioeconomic factors. Using the survival of individual animals as a metric or currency of successful conservation, we calculate here what proportions of remaining populations of IUCN-redlisted mammal species are currently supported by funds from tourism. This proportion is =5% for over half of the species where relevant data exist, =15% for one fifth, and up to 66% in a few cases. Many of these species, especially the most endangered, survive only in one single remaining subpopulation. These proportions are not correlated either with global population sizes or recognition as wildlife tourism icons. Most of the more heavily tourism-dependent species, however, are medium sized (>7.5 kg) or larger. Historically, biological concern over the growth of tourism in protected areas has centered on direct disturbance to wildlife. These results show that conservation of threatened mammal species has become reliant on revenue from tourism to a previously unsuspected degree. On the one hand, this provides new opportunities for conservation funding; but on the other, dependence on such an uncertain source of funding is a new, large and growing threat to red-listed species.