Can tourism encourage the preservation of commons?

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A recent report by the Red List showed that the population of giraffes have declined by 30% in the last 30 years, leaving the species vulnerable to extinction. The decline in the population is due to loss of habitat, poaching, and civil unrest in the surrounding areas. As one the tallest animal that walks our planet and an iconic figure of the African grasslands, the loss of giraffes as a species would be detrimental to the future generations who would never get to experience seeing one of these creatures in nature.

For many locals, wild animals can be seen as pests as they tend to consume or trample the agriculture that is being cultivated in rural villages. Many organizations are attempting to change this mindset and help the locals to view the wildlife as resources they can use to bring tourism into their communities. Project Spotlight with Campfire Association in Zimbabwe is one example of how rural villages are being education about the role of wild animals in the development of their communities. This project build solar powered fences around the villages to protect their livestock and agriculture from being eaten and trampled by lions and elephants and changed the relationship between the villagers and the surrounding animals. Since the involvement of Campfire Association, the Binga district went from having thirteen primary schools and no secondary schools to having 56 primary schools and nine secondary schools within fifteen years as the community continues to grow from the income from wildlife tourism.

Another project that works to conserve nature through the institutional development of the local community is the Khomas Environmental Education Program (KEEP). KEEP works with year 3 and 4 children from urban areas in Namibia to reconnect with nature through a field-based environmental educational program. The objective of this project is to build a culture of environmental awareness, social responsibility, and action in Namibia. This program is run by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation which sees the value of giraffes as a means of tourism but more importantly, they value giraffes as beautiful creatures that should be preserved so future generations can experience seeing a giraffe in nature.

While tourism can be incredibly detrimental to the environment, it can also be a means for preserving the commons and the resources within the commons. It is a booming industry that can be mismanaged but it can also bring millions of dollars towards preserving some of nature’s most beautiful creatures.

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