Abstract Wildlife tourism is a specialized, yet important, aspect of the tourism market. It has been heralded as a way to secure sustainable economic benefits while supporting wildlife conservation and local communities. To protect the various unique wildlife species, including Yunnan Golden Monkey (Rhinopithecus bieti), and improve the livelihoods for local communities, the Natural Conservancy and Chinese partners launched a series of protection projects in Three Parallel Rivers Area in Yunnan province.
To create sustainable ecotourism is one of the most important targets for these projects. Although there are many studies focused on ecotourism in protected areas in China, few of them discuss the status of wildlife tourism and the associated benefits it can bring to the participating communities in China’s protected areas. This report evaluates the status and value of non-consumptive wildlife tourism and found possible approaches to implement community based wildlife tourism in Laojun Mountain National Park. Key informant interviews, secondary data, and survey questionnaires were used as research tools to examine the local attitudes towards wildlife protection, tourists preference for wildlife tourism, and potential targeted ecotourists.
The study results reveal that non-consumptive wildlife tourism development in China is still in the early stage and semi-captive wildlife tourism is currently the main form of wildlife tourism development in China, especially for primate tourism. Moreover, due to misunderstanding the meaning of ecotourism and driven by financial benefit, local governments and protected area authorities have often failed to develop sustainable ecotourism so that conventional tourism has generated great negative impacts in the protected areas.
The findings indicate that with the increasing demand for outdoor activities, changing public preferences for wildlife tourism, and improving tourism infrastructures, non-consumptive primate tourism is feasible in LJMNP and with modification could be a model for future wildlife tourism in China.
Key words: Ecotourism, non-consumptive wildlife tourism, tourism impacts, tourism development, local attitudes, target tourists, Yunnan, Laojun Mountain, China.
1. Introduction Over the past 30 years, since “Opening-up Policy” begun in 1978, tourism industry in China continues to grow and already accounts for a significant portion of the national economy. In 2012, the total visitation in China reached over 3 billion and generated 26 trillion RMB (Ren Min Bi) revenues. With more than 100 million international arrivals in the last year, China is now the third most visited destination in the world and has strengthened its foothold in the global tourism market (China National Tourism Administration, 2012).
Francesco Frangialli, Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), predicted that China will claim the top spot before 2020 (China to Be World’s Top Tourist Destination Before ’20. 2/8/2007). With increasing demand of nature-based tourism and the realization that tourism can negatively impact environmental attractions, the government realized the importance of developing tourism while sustaining and protecting its environment and natural resource (Wen and Tisdell, 2001).
In 1994, the concept of “nature-based tourism”, and particularly “ecotourism”, had attracted great interests from the government (NEPA, 1994). In 1999, just one year after the China’s State Forest Bureau banning the logging of natural forests in the west, the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) announced “the 1999 is the Chinese Year of Forest Tourism”.
And ten years later, CNTA designated 2009 as Chinese Ecotourism Year and encouraged visitors to “be green travelers and experience eco-civilization” (CNTA, 2009). Following the trend of ecotourism development, the concept of wildlife tourism in China developed very fast. Wildlife tourism is a specialized, yet important aspect of ecotourism. It has been heralded as a way to secure sustainable economic benefits while supporting wildlife conservation and local communities (Higginbottom, 2004).
Having in its favor a complex array of bio-regions that represent about one-half of the country’s flora and 64 percent of its bird species (Lew, 2001), China’s Yunnan province is an ideal place for wildlife tourism. And it is the only Chinese province to designate tourism as its leading economic sector (Albers & Grin spoon, 1997). To protect the various unique wildlife species including Yunnan Snub-nosed Monkey (Rhinopithecus bieti) and improve the livelihoods for local communities, the Natural Conservancy (TNC) and Chinese partners launched a series of protection projects in Three Parallel Rivers Area in Yunnan province. To create a sustainable ecotourism environment is one of the most important targets for these projects.
Although a variety of studies focused on ecotourism in protected area in China, few of them discussed the status of non-consumptive wildlife tourism (NCWT) and the associated benefits it can bring to the participated communities in China’s protected areas. This study sought to assess the status and value of non-consumptive wildlife tourism in China and find possible approaches to implicate community based wildlife tourism in Laojun Mountain National Park. The study is intended to enhance the capacity of ecotourism to generate benefits for both the local communities and the protected areas, and thus contribute to the sustainable development of the region more generally.
2. Classification of wildlife tourism Wildlife tourism is defined as “Tourism based on encounters with non-domesticated (non-human) animals” (Higginbottom, 2004). Because it can take place in a variety of settings and involves multiple types of interactions, it is not possible to classify different forms of wildlife tourism into non-overlapping categories (Reynolds & Braithwaite, 2000). Wildlife tourism may be defined as an area of overlap between nature-based tourism, ecotourism, consumptive use of wildlife, rural tourism, and human relations with animals (Figure 1).
Figure 1 Wildlife based tourism (Reynolds and Braithwaite, 2000).
Some evidence suggests that public values toward wildlife and the environment in the United States changed over the latter half of the 20th century concurrent with a shift from materialist to post-materialist values (Manfredo, et al., 2003; Inglehart, 1990 & Inglehart &Baker, 2000).
Under this view, traditional values associated wildlife (i.e., as consumable resource) gave way to a value system that emphasized their ecological and spiritual benefits to human (Kellert, 1985). In addition to the direct, consumptive value of wildlife, people started to realize and explore the indirect values of wildlife--what some call the “non-consumptive” or “existence” value. Wildlife can offer important dimensions of beauty, meaning, quality, and virtue to human life and society (Kellert, et al., 1996). Importantly, these benefits are not well monetized; for example, one does not pay for the good feeling derived from a chance encounter with wildlife. Wildlife tourism, as a form of human-wildlife interaction, involves the many forms of wildlife values discussed above.
An early conceptual framework for wildlife tourism focused on three dimensions of wildlife-human interaction (Duffus & Dearden, 1990), which include hunting and fishing (consumptive use), zoos and aquaria (low-consumptive use) and wildlife observation and photography (non-consumptive use). It also created a module of three basic elements of recreational use of wildlife: ecology, the recreational user and the
historical context of human-wildlife interactions. Higginbottom (2004) in the book entitled, Wildlife Tourism Impact, Management and Planning, classified four main forms of wildlife tourism: 1) Wildlife-watching tourism (viewing or otherwise interacting with free-ranging animals); 2) Captive-wildlife tourism (viewing animals in man-made confinement); 3) Hunting tourism, and 4) Fishing tourism.
This classification is based on the distinct types of suppliers, organizational networks, environmental impacts, host community issues, stakeholders, markets and bodies of literature. Similarly, Orams (1996) emphasized a spectrum of tourist-wildlife opportunities with a number of components: interaction opportunities (the way a tourist might meet an animal in a wild, semi-captive or captive state), management strategy options, and outcome indicators for tourists and wildlife (Figure 2).
Figure 2 The spectrum of tourist-wildlife interaction opportunities (Orams, 1996).
As shown in the Orams’ model of tourist-wildlife interaction, feeding of wildlife can fall into within the semi-captive and wild categories. This classification of wildlife tourism would suitable to describe the current primate tourism status in China. I will discuss the impacts of feeding wildlife, particularly primate species, as a tourism attraction and compare it with viewing primate in the wild (as opposed to in captive or semi-captive setting) later in the paper.
2.1 Defining non-consumptive wildlife tourism Comparisons of the definitions of “Wild tourism” (Orams, 1996), “Wildlife watching tourism” (Valentine & Birtles, 2004) and “non-consumptive wildlife-oriented recreation” (Duffus & Dearden, 1990), reveal that they share some of the same key ideas attributes, specifically, a “focal organism”, in its “nature setting”, “not purposefully removed”, nor “permanently affected”.
Therefore, Non-Consumptive Wildlife Tourism (NCWT) is defined as the following: NCWT is tourism undertaken to view and/or encounter the focal organism in its natural setting and without purposefully removing or permanently affecting that organism. By this definition, NCWT has the minimal effects on both the focal organism and its environment, and therefore differs from captive and semi-captive wildlife tourism (e.g., zoos, wild animal parks). Besides, NCWT experiences were perceived to be more engaging, exciting, memorable and transformative than captive wildlife viewing experience (Packer & Ballantyne, 2012).
Although wildlife watching/viewing (includes video-recording and photographing) is the most common form of NCWT and tends to be seen has zero impact, it faces criticism is that wildlife viewing is also a form of consumption. Lemelin (2006) asserted that the focal species in wildlife viewing or NCWT suffered with “ocular consumption” and that viewing too generates negative impacts on the species behavior, especially the successful hunting rate of the polar bear. Another example will be the large number of gray wolf hunted and trapped in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana just outside Yellowstone National Park during the hunting season last year (See Stable ford, D. 2012.
“World’s most famous wolf shot and killed outside Yellowstone”). In this scenario, animals viewed by tourists become habituated to people and are therefore more easily hunted. Although passive observation from a distance is the main form of NCWT, disturbances from feeding, touching or approaching wildlife are common. Still, compared with passive observation the wildlife at a safe distance, feeding and touching of wildlife is much more likely to result in negative impacts for both the health and behavior of the species (Knight, 2009; Orams, 2002 & Berman, et al., 2007). Without purposefully
removal of wildlife via consumptive uses, a well-organized NCWT has been heralded as a way to secure sustainable economic benefits from wildlife while supporting wildlife conservation and local communities (Tisdell & Wilson, 2004; Higginbottom et al., 2001, 2003 & Fredline & Faulkner, 2001). Although well-managed consumptive wildlife tourism can also be sustainable, fewer tourists can simultaneously participate in these activities.
2.2 Conceptual framework of non-consumptive wildlife tourism In order to better manage NCWT, there is a need to classify the major components of wildlife tourism, and indicates the role of and relationship between these components. Duffus and Dearden (1990) suggest a conceptual framework for non-consumptive recreational use of wildlife (Figure 3). Their model uses an interaction between ecology, the recreational user and the historical context of the human-wildlife relationship.
Figure 3 The core components of NCWT (Duffus & Dearden, 1990)
They classified the components of NCWT into three main elements: 1) The historical context of human-wildlife relations (two parts: the impacts of human on animals and their habitats; traditional perceptions towards wildlife); 2) The wildlife (the focal species or species groups and the requirements of the species for survival); 3) The wildlife user (tourists engage in NCWT). Moreover, many researchers
suggested that local economics, wildlife policies, existing tourism facilities and knowledge of tour guides (Kong, 2012; He, et al., 2008; Buckely, 2010) can be considered as other important elements facilitate the NCWT. In the following case study in Laojun Mountain National Park, I will discuss each element in turn .
2.3 Importance of non-consumptive wildlife tourism NCWT is an important segment of tourism and has grown rapidly in many countries in recent decades (Field, 2001). This can be seen in the number of different types of wildlife watching activities linked to commercial tourism, the numbers of tourism businesses that offer these activities, and the numbers of tourists that engage in them (Tapper, 2006).
Tourism agents and operators are emphasizing that tourism needs to be sustainable, and they are developing and marketing tourism products that are ‘wildlife-friendly’ (for example the WildChina, Natural Habitat Adventure, et al), as well as carbon-neutral, and which ensure that a fair share of tourist income goes to local people (Tapper, 2006). Well-developed wildlife tourism can create economic benefits to government, tourism operators and local people, while supporting conservation in protected areas. And as some have noted, there is nothing like the indelible thrill of meeting a wild animal on its own terms in its own element (Ackerman, 2003).
2.3.1 Economics of Wildlife Tourism Tourism and travel continued to grow globally in recent years. International tourist arrivals grew by 4.6% to reach 983 million worldwide, up from 940 million in 2010. International tourism receipts for 2011 are estimated at US $1,030 billion worldwide, up from US $928 billion in 2010 (UNWTO, 2012). Some estimates suggest that wildlife tourism accounts for 20 to 40% of all international tourism (Filion, 1992; Giono, 1993), though see (Tisdell & Wilson, 2004) for a critique. Beginning in 1990s, ecotourism has been growing 20% - 34% per year and in
2007, global ecotourism market expanded to US $77 billion (CREST, 2008). According to Travel weekly, ecotourism could grow to 25% of the world’s travel market by 2012. Although there are no reliable global estimates of the economic impact of wildlife tourism, as a subset of ecotourism, it has been suggested that in involves relatively large numbers of participants and generates lots of money (Higginbottom, 2004).
The most detailed research to determine the economic importance of wildlife-related recreation has been in the USA. According to latest USFWS National Survey, 71.8 million US residents observed, fed, and/or photographed birds and other wildlife in 2011 and total 22.5 million people took trips of at least one mile from home to primarily wildlife watch. Through this non-consumptive wildlife tourism, people spent $ 54.9 billion on their wildlife watching trips, equipment, and other items in 2011.
This amounted to $981 on average per spender for the year (USFWS, 2012). Due to the insufficient data on wildlife tourism in China’s literature, I will focus more generally on the economic value of ecotourism in China instead. An example of an economic benefit to the local community may be observed with Jiuzhaigou National Nature Reserve, Sichuan Province. When it was first opened up for tourism in 1984, the indigenous Tibetans living in six villages inside the boundary were impoverished pastoralists and herders; there was little economic activity. By 2009, and taking advantage the beautiful landscape and biodiversity, Jiuzhaigou National Nature Reserve attracted 3.8 million tourists.
The Tibetan communities surrounding the reserve enjoyed a per capita income of more than US$12,000 from several tourist facilities including ownership of the shuttle bus in the park, the only restaurant located inside the Park, 180 Tibetan arts and crafts souvenir outlets and several performing cultural groups and accommodation units. Income generated from these activities makes them among the richest rural communities in China, and there has been a dramatic alleviation of poverty in the six villages. The success of Jiuzhaigou National Nature Reserve is broadly recognized as the model for balancing the economic income while contributing to the conservation (Li, 2006).
2.3.2 Contribution in conservation In wildlife tourism, encounters with wild (non-domesticated) animals are a focus of the visitor experiences, thus there is increasing awareness that nature-based or wildlife tourism should create a mutualistic (the way two organisms of different species exist in a relationship in which each individual benefits) relationship between communities and wildlife conservation (Tapper, 2006; Higginbottom, et al., 2001; Roe, et al., 1997). Although wildlife tourism can have various positive effects on wildlife species and their habitats, very little systematic research has been conducted on positive effect (Higginbottom, et al., 2003). Instead, we know much more about negative effects of wildlife tourism on wildlife (Green & Higginbottom, 2001;
Blanc, et al., 2006. & Li, et al., 2012). As mentioned above, NCWT tends to set higher standard of wildlife tourism and try to minimize the negative impacts to the wildlife and their habitats. Moreover, the NCWT involves people concentrate to the wildlife or their habitats that directly increases the research of wildlife, wildlife management from government and tour operators, public environmental awareness, educational opportunity about conservation, and most importantly, it directly increases funding for conservation, especially in developing countries (Boo, 1990). A well-organized NCWT required intensive management practice, monitoring and research (Higginbottom, 2004).
Many opportunities for wildlife watching tourism were created only after years of conservation and ecological research conducted by the governments, institutions, NGOs and tour operators (Tapper, 2006). For example, after years of ecological research on wild, mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) the Rwandan government was struggling with their conservation. Then, in 1979, the government teamed up with various NGOs and introduced gorilla tourism and education as well as anti-poaching efforts as a vehicle to achieve better gorilla conservation (The Gorilla Talks). Since then, gorilla tourism has contributed to the welfare of the conservation and local communities (Nielsen & Spenceley, 2010). Moreover, the gorilla tourism effectively reduced the anti-poaching around the gorilla habitat (Shackley, 1996).
Similar to many zoos and animal parks, which shifted their activities toward wild animals conservation and both formal and informal education (Woollard, 1998), many wildlife and nature-based tourism operators, whether from the private or the public sector, incorporate environmental interpretation and education components. Likewise, the US National Park Service incorporates active education programs for visitors. Drafted in 1918 by the National Parks Educational Committee to promote the educational opportunities in national parks, the objectives for establishment of the National Park System were clear and bold: • •
To educate the public in respect to the nature and quality of the national parks, To further the view of the national parks as classrooms and museums of nature, • To combine in one interest the sympathy and activity of schools, colleges and citizen organizations in all parts of the country, • To study the history and science of each national park and collect data for future use.
Besides the above contributions of NCWT can bring to the conservation, NCWT can provide funding for conservation. To create a successful long-term NCWT industry, the first step is to protect the natural attractions through legal designation of conservation reserves, and regional planning to ensure that conservation areas are not damaged by other industries. And this provides the nature-based tourism in conservation reserves to be the keystone industry in the region. In China, reserves were funded at US $113/km2 in 1999, which was less than the developing country average, US $157/km2 (James, 1999; Li & Han, 2000). Many China’s nature reserves generated their funding by intensive logging, building dams and even invest mining (Sofield & Li, 2011).
Following the disastrous floods in 1998, the China’s central government realized the significance of environmental protection and introduced “The natural Forest Conservation Program” that banned all logging of natural forests mainly in Southwest of China (PRC State Council, 1998). With the cessation of logging in protected area, forestry departments all over China and communities within the conservation areas lost their main revenue stream to cover operating costs. Since then, all reserves in China tried to find alternative ways to cover the operating costs.
Unlike the “user-pay” model of wildlife conservation in North America, which the federal add in Wildlife Restoration Act (Pittman-Robertsome Act) and Sport Fish Restoration Act (Dingell-Johnson Act) have contributed more than $10 billion to fish and wildlife conservation in US through anglers and hunters (Williams, 2010), China’s government kept forbidding the consumptive use of wildlife through hunting.
Therefore, Ecotourism had become one of the major funding sources for these regions. In the report of “Resources management within nature reserves in China”, Xue (2000) estimated that most of China’s reserves obtain 20 to 80 percent of their total budget from tourism. With the growth of sustainable tourism worldwide and the travel pattern swift within the China’s newly wealthy middle class (Wu et al, 2009), China’s National Reserves will generate more funding through the growing visitation rate. For example, in 2008, a total of 274 million tourists visited the various forest parks in China and generate RMB 18.7 billion, with a total regional economic contribution estimated at > RMB 140 billion (State Forestry Administration, 2009).
2.4 Negative impacts of non-consumptive wildlife tourism Although the evidence above supports the idea that NCWT can provide various positive impacts (e.g. financial support of conservation, promote education in conservation area) the possible negative impacts of NCWT cannot be ignored. Given that wildlife tourism is predicted to grow rapidly within many developing countries (UNEP, 2011), a shift away from the hard ecotourism to a more soft form of ecotourism is forecasted (Paul, 2007), leading eventually to mass conventional tourism and more negative impacts. Many researchers have described the potential negative effects of NCWT on animal populations, behavior and welfare (Duffus & Dearden, 1990; Green & Higginbottom, 2001; Shackley, 1996).
According to Knight and Cole, negative effects of wildlife tourism on free-ranging wildlife can occur at a
hierarchy of interconnected levels, from the community or species level to the individual animal (Figure 4).
Figure 4 A conceptual model of the responses of wildlife to disturbance (Knight & Cole, 1995).
There are many ways of classifying negative effects on wildlife, some from human activities aspects (Newsome, et al., 2005) and others from animal responses aspects (Liddle, 1997). Because the non-consumptive wildlife tourism is a tourism activity driven by human and animal responses, classifying the negative effects from human activities will be crucial for understanding the disturbance and can be used for tourism management efforts. In this paper, I classify the negative effects on wildlife from two aspects based on human activities:
1) disruption from access and 2) disruption from observation. 2.4.1 Disruption from access In order to observe free-ranging wildlife at close distances, infrastructures like trails, roads, accommodations and restaurants, etc. need to be built to facilitate the tourism activities. Yet, these infrastructures may trigger avoidance behavior in wildlife, complicating the provisioning of viewing activities. Gaegory Rost and James
Bailey in the study of “Distribution of mule deer and elk in relation to road” pointed out that, mule deer and elk in rocky mountain region avoid roads, particularly areas within 200m of a road and the road becomes the barriers for their migrations. Moreover, access using vehicles may cause accidental death or injury of animals.
Green and Higginbottom discussed that wildlife tourism has the potential to increase roadkills by (a) bringing more traffic into a wildlife-rich area; (b) habituating animals to traffic and parked cars and thus making them less wary on roads and in campgrounds; and (c) creating a positive feedback in that once an animal has been converted into carrion on the road or roadside scavengers are secondarily endangered by feeding there (Green & Higginbottom, 2001).
On the other hand, accommodations like hotels, resorts and campgrounds, which are areas with high density of human presence, can drive animals away. In Kenya, for example wildlife tourists’ disruption drives cheetahs off their reserves, increasing the risk of inbreeding and further endangering the species (Roe, et al., 1997).
The infrastructures built by tourism operators and other stakeholders may also impact foraging behavior, breeding behaviors (nesting and caring for young) and resting. Besides the direct impacts on wildlife, infrastructures like roads will cause fragmentation of the habitats, reduce the size of the core forests and impact the condition of soil, water and vegetation. Leung and Marion (1999) described the common forms of recreation impacts in wilderness (Table 1), which mirrors the types of disturbances that can be expected in from wildlife tourism.
Table 1 Access disturbance of wildlife tourism (Leung & Marion,1999).
2.4.2 Disruption from observation As mentioned in the paper, the definition of wildlife watching is straightforward—that is, tourism undertaken to view or encounter wildlife (Newsome, et al., 2005). And, as wildlife watching is a kind of experience, tourists tend to get closer to the wildlife (Moscardo, et al., 2001). Although Orams (2000) suggests that wildlife observers can satisfy their viewing experience without getting close to wildlife, wildlife tourists and tourism operators tend to create opportunities to observe wildlife from closer range (Newsome, et al., 2005).
Animals may respond in a variety of ways to the presence of humans: some may flee at the very first sight, smell or sound of humans; some may spend more time on guard before resuming their original activity; others appear to take no notice at all (although this can be only based on human’s perception), while still others may approach humans, either to be fed, to threaten, or simply driven by curiosity (Moscardo, et al., 2001). All these behaviors potentially negatively impact not only wildlife but also tourists, and may amplify when tourists tend to get closer to the wildlife. Disturbed animals may show an “active defense” response: increased heart rate and respiration, increased blood flow
to skeletal muscle, increased body temperature, elevation of blood sugar, and reduce blood flow to the skin and digestive organs (Audrey & Knight, 2003). More rarely, they may show a “passive defense” response: inhibition of activity, decreased blood flow to skeletal muscles, reduced blood flow to the digestive system, reduces heart and respiratory, and a reduction of body temperature (Gabrielsen & Smith, 1995). Burger (1981) examined the effects of humans on birds at Jamaica Bay by foot.
Birds were flushed from their ponds when people made rapid movements in order to get a closer observation. Because wild animals are generally neophobic and often times finding animals is unpredictable in the wild, human interventions to increase the sighting quality had become effective tools for tourism operators.
There are two main interventions: habituation and attraction that tend to change wildlife behaviors toward humans. And both interventions could cause serious negative impacts for wildlife and human as well. Habituation is “a waning of response to repeated, neural stimuli,” in this case, human presence (Whittaker & Knight, 1998). It occurs where an initial disposition to escape from humans wanes and is replaced by tolerance of human presence. Habituation can reduce the population fitness, and reduce danger flight response (Higginbottom, 2004; Newsome, et al., 2005 & Shackley, 1996).
In some instances, wildlife were first habituated by ecologists and other scientists, which eventually facilitated wildlife tourism by making these animals more easy to encounter. One well- known example is provided by the mountain gorillas of Rwanda, who were habituated by Dian Fossey for the purpose of primatological research. Habituation of gorillas resulted in negative effects including: increase in human-gorillas conflicts by reducing the natural fear stimuli from the gorillas, diseases transmission between human and gorillas (Blom, et al., 2002).
A study at Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Rwanda indicated that gorillas are particularly susceptible to respiratory diseases from humans (Woodford, et al., 2002). Moreover, habituation has the potential impact of facilitate poaching also due to the removal of the fear of human (Kasereka, et al., 2006). Humans can make wildlife viewable by attracting them to particular places
where they can be observed or by focusing tourism in areas where they congregate. There are many examples of wildlife tourism operators use artificial attractions, mainly through providing food to attract wildlife. At Xishuangbanna Nature Reserve in Yunnan, China, the managers of “Yexianggu” (Wild Elephant Valley) attracted the elephants to the accessible river side by putting large amount of salt in the river (Tisdell & Wilson, 2004).
In East African safari parks, carcasses have been used by park staff to attract lions and leopards to particular viewing spots (Edington & Edington, 1986). In Huanshan Mountain China, tourists often use food to attract macaques (Li, et al., 2012). Food attraction causes change in breeding or group size and the health of the animals is threatened, leading to injury or diseases, such as Chronic Wasting Disease transfer to deer through infected bait piles (Orams, 2002 & Brown & Cooper, 2006). It will also cause the population to exceed the natural carrying capacity and increase intra-species competition (Berman, et al., 2007).
Moreover, food attraction may cause the wildlife lose the ability and skills to forage for themselves (Green & Higginbottom, 2001). Sometimes the attractions of wildlife are unintended but generate the same or even larger negative impacts to wildlife as intended activities. For example, between 1967 and 1972, a minimum of 229 grizzly bears died in Yellowstone National Park after the close of open garbage dumps. The reason was due to the longtime use of garbage dumps as the food resource of grizzly bear that reduce their ability to find natural food in the wild (Blackford, 2008 & Robbins, et al., 2008).
3. Wildlife tourism in China 3.1 Current Status Compared to ecotourism, the term “wildlife tourism” is relatively unfamiliar to China’s public. When I conducted distributed questionnaires in Yunnan, nearly half of the participants asked me to explain the meaning of “wildlife tourism” while answering the questions on the survey sheets. Indeed, as a relatively new aspect of tourism, wildlife tourism, especially the non-consumptive wildlife tourism has not attracted much attention from the government and tour operators yet. However, bird watching, as an important aspect of NCWT, is gaining popularity among enthusiastic birders throughout the country.
Although there are no data indicate the total number of bird watching tourists annually, increasing number of “bird watching festivals” and bird watcher associations illustrate the potential market for bird watching tourism (Wang, et al., 2008). Moreover, besides pure recreational satisfaction, many birders reported the status of the species condition including the population, health status, and possible threats etc. through various forums and other media.
The latest example was the saving of Oriental White Stork (Ciconia boyciana) at Beidagang wetland in Tianjin, last November (Xinhua, 2012). Due to the increasing birders with high environmental awareness and the popularity of the Internet, the trend of combining bird watching and conservation is becoming clear. Besides the new rise in bird watching tourism and wild elephants watching in Yunnan, the other organized NCWT markets of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and insects are nearly nonexistent in China. As for the consumptive wildlife tourism, China’s situation is different from other countries.
Because China is a communist country, wildlife is considered as one of the many “State-owned” properties, therefore common consumptive wildlife tourism like hunting is forbidden (Despite this fact, it is well known that many kill wildlife illegally for recreational or subsistence purposes and poaching occurs within protected areas). The only consumptive wildlife tourism in China is limited to fishing. According to the China Angling Association, (CAA, 2008) in 2008, China had nearly 100 million active anglers and generated over 20 billion RMB annually.
Compare to consumptive and non-consumptive wildlife tourism, semi-consumptive wildlife tourism is the major form of China’s wildlife tourism. In the mid-90s, wildlife parks became the investment hotspot and 11 wildlife parks and aquariums opened nationwide from 1993 till 2000. However, after a few years since the investment fever, many zoos were in a perilous state: old fashioned, badly run and reduced attraction to the public (Yang & Li, 2008). Due to the reduced revenue, many
zoos lack of sufficient money to sustain the survival of the animals. In the late 2000s, many captive animals starved to death in zoos. For example, 11 Amur tigers starved to death in 2011 (Shen, 2011). Other than zoos, panda tourism in Sichuan and Shaanxi is another important form of semi-consumptive tourism. Because of the variety of charismatic primate species widely distributed in the middle and southwest parts of China, primate tourism is a major form of wildlife tourism taking place in wild settings, like Macaques watching in Anhui and Hunan, Sichuan Snub-nosed Monkey in Shanxi, Sichuan and Yunnan.
However, currently feeding the primates for the purposes of attraction is the only way for the tourists and tourism operators to facilitate close observation and interact with the monkeys in the wild. Although researchers have asserted that flagship species ecotourism like Sichuan snub-nosed tourism in Shennongjia could deliver measurable economic benefits, improve government attitudes to conservation, and provide funding for some conservation activities, the generated problems cannot be ignored (Xiang, et al., 2011).
As mentioned above, feeding can cause various negative impacts for both human and wildlife. In Li, Berman and their colleagues’ study, feeding macaques at Huangshan Mountain caused range restriction and infant risk for the animals and harmed human health (Berman, et al. 2007). By comparing the forms of wildlife tourism, non-consumptive wildlife tourism showed both economic and sustainability soundness (Higginbottom, 2004). With the development of ecotourism in China and the increasing awareness of animal welfare (State Forestry Administration, 2007), I believe the NCWT, as a niche market will play a more important role in China’s ecotourism market.
3.2 Challenges for Non-consumptive wildlife tourism in China Although NCWT has a foreseeable future in China, as a subset of ecotourism, it shared same challenges as ecotourism for operating a well-organized NCWT. Firstly, China’s governments, especially the local governments and ecotourism developers seem to have not generally accepted the definition of ecotourism. Instead, they
considered ecotourism including wildlife tourism as another types of mass tourism and adopted the traditional ways to manage the tourism activities. According to the Meridian Group, a consultancy and research firm in southwest China states: “Both in Yunnan, where many ecotourism projects are based, and across China as a whole, nature-based tourism is often marketed as being environmentally friendly, but in practice, places little emphasis on conservation and environmental or social awareness (ATTA, 2010).
The management approaches, together with the large number of tourists, many wildlife tourism practices in China actually brought more negative impacts than positive ones (Lindberg, et al., 2003). Secondly, lack of clarity in land ownership and management responsibility, which hinders effective ecotourism management and contributes to uncontrolled development.
The administrative and management structure of reserves in China is complex. For example, a local (provincial, municipal, and county) level nature reserve is controlled by many agencies and departments like the local government, The State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), State Forestry Administration, Ministry of Wildlife Conservancy and Ministry of Agriculture et al. All of them can issue regulations and policies for management of reserves under their jurisdictions (Han, 2000). Therefore, large number of responsible agencies, with concomitant coordination difficulties, has limited efficient reserve management in China.
Thirdly, because local governments typically retain the ownership of land in reserves, the agencies that administer the reserves often have no land ownership or land use right. Fourthly, limited government funding forced reserves to depend heavily on revenue from tourism and that increased the impacts of mass tourism to wildlife and their habitats. Moreover, while public attitudes toward natural resources are changing from over exploitation to sustainable development, Chinese travelers are not yet demanding so-called “green” travel options.
Lack of protection awareness and environmental education is another major barrier for operating the well-organized wildlife tourism in China. In the study of Nanwan Monkey Island, Hainan, most tourists fed the wild monkeys and interacted with them in very close distance and they were not aware of the possible impacts brought to the monkey. The proper education and regulation from the tour guides and
park managers were also absent (Cui, et al., 2012). Furthermore, wild animals are still considered as the food sources in many parts of China, especially in rural areas. There are more than 30 million people living within the protected areas in China. For them, exploiting the natural resources, including wildlife, is a part of their way of life. Moreover, although nearly every study discussed the culture aspect of wildlife will bring up the traditional Chinese concept of “Harmony” (Cui, et al., 2012. & Wen, 2008), a balance that unites man and heaven, the basic tenet in the Chinese way of thinking is to value the human and disrespect the animal and this perspective has been accepted for centuries (Zhang, 1999).
3.3 Feeding primates as a tourism attraction: A case in Shangri-La Yunnan Snub-nosed Monkey National Park (SYSNMNP) Primate tourism is a recent and growing trend in primate habitat countries (Berman, et al., 2007). As one of the richest countries in terms primate species (22 species in 3 family and 8 genus) in the world (China Animal Scientific Database), with public’s high preference to view primates (Li, 1998), China has developed many primate tourism operations in many nature reserves throughout the country.
While bringing the economic benefits to governments, tourism operators and local communities, many negative impacts to both wildlife and visitors have been recognized. Management for primate tourism typically involves close contact between human and primate species, and many may involve other practices such as feeding, translocation, and range restriction.
Based on past research on primate tourism effects (Woodford, et al., 2002; Kinnaird & O’Brien, 1996; Wrangham, 2001 & De la Torre, et al., 2000), the potential negative effects of primate tourism can be classified as: disease transmission, isolation of the habituated group from outside groups, habitat destruction due to trampling and facilities construction, change behavior and biology of primate cause stress in wild primates, avoidance of tourist areas, problems associated with over habituation and hyper aggression, disruption of feeding patterns and parent-offspring bonds, et al (Li, 2012) However, despite of these many
recognized potential threats to both wildlife and humans, China’s primate tourism continue to be based on feeding primates to provide close observation and even touching opportunities to the tourists. Shangri-La Yunnan Snub nosed monkey National Park (SYSNMNP) located in Tacheng Township, Weixi County, Yunnan and occupied 334.16 km2 (Pudacuo NP).
There are more than 1500 Yunnan Snub nosed monkeys (Rhinopithecus bieti) living in the park and surrounding areas (mainly in Baimaxueshan National Park). At the beginning of 2009, rangers used food as an attraction for about 90 monkeys divided from the original group These monkeys inhabited the designated “exhibition area”, which was located in a 3 km2 narrow valley, less than 1 km off the main road.
Rangers fed the monkeys every day with both natural food and high nutrient food like carrots, peanuts and apples. Although there was no research specifically focused on effects of artificial diets on this “exhibition group”, obvious behavior change was observed. Based on the interviews with two rangers, during the three years of regular feeding, the monkeys in “exhibition group” (Figure 5) had already shown some signs of loss the ability to find food, distorted group hierarchical structure, vegetation destruction due to the overuse of the restricted habitat.
Figure 5 Tourists close encountered with Snub-nosed monkeys in the park. Source: Yunnanwang website (08/06/2012)
In March 2010, a parasite infection broke out within the group and caused the death of individuals. This was due to the feces accumulation in the over restricted area deteriorated the site and increased the chance of infection (China Wildlife Protection Association, 2011). At present, SYSMNP was just at the early stage of primate tourism operation, no commercial tourist groups visited the site and commercial advertisements had not yet been established. There were only around 50 self-organized tourists visiting the park and viewing the monkeys daily (according to Tai Zhong, Chief of the park’s administration bureau).
Although the rangers always informed the tourists to keep 5 meters away from the monkeys, many tourists still tended to hand feed the monkeys and some even tried to hold hands with them or pet them. Zhong worried about this situation and he said: “There were only less than 100 tourists every day to visit the park at present, if the mass tourism operated in the near future, this kind of behavior will increase and the situation will be a chaos.” Indeed, many Chinese studies described the harmful behavior of the tourists in primate tourism and irresponsible performance of tour guides (Cui, et al., 2012).
Moreover, among the 5 interviewed tourists, due to the restricted “exhibition area” and designated feeding activities, 4 of them described their encounter with the monkeys was not as exciting as they had expected. “It is more like visiting a wildlife park, just without the fences”, one tourist said. The same result showed in the survey questionnaires that nearly 90% of the participants chose the “preferred wildlife tourism type” as “Watch free ranging wildlife”. It seems like before the park is fully opened to the public, there is more work to be done, such as increased regulation, tourism experience management, and additional research on the impacts to wildlife, to prevent future damages.
4. The possibility of Non-consumptive wildlife tourism in Laojun Mountain National Park.
As discussed earlier, although NCWT will have possible downsides, a well-organized NCWT has been heralded as a way to secure sustainable economic benefits while supporting wildlife conservation and local communities. Moreover, well-organized free-ranging primate tourisms may change the mindset of current poorly developed primate tourism management in China and help to set the model for future NCWT. Laojun Mountain National Park, as a part of TNC’s National Park Project (TNC Project, 2004), is among the first 8 trial national parks in Yunnan province. It was established in 2008 and opened to the public the following year.
According to Laojun Mountain National Park Development Plan, the park’s development will be classified into four zones according to their transportation condition, ecological status, and respective capacity for accommodating tourists, i.e., a) Sustainable Mass Tourism Zone (Liming Danxia Landform), b) Scale-Controlled Tourism Zone (Ninety-nine Dragon Alpine Lakes), c) Ecotourism Zone (Liju, Jinsichang) and d) Cultural Tourism Zone (Baiya temple area). At present, the tourism development is concentrated in the north side of the park, mainly in Liming Township. Using Danxia landform as an attraction, the Liming area has developed as a mass
tourism site for the public. In January 5th, 2012, massive infrastructure development projects like a cable car and luxury hotels had started (Laojun Mountain NP). Although the Snub-nosed Monkey habitat is restricted for tourism development, the ecotourism zones (Liju and Jinsichang) are heavily overlapped with their habitat and according to the development plan, there will be another cable car and multiple paved roads built within these areas in order to facilitate the alpine lakes tourism (Laojun Mountain NP Master Plan).
These future developments have great potential to turn the designated “ecotourism” in these vulnerable areas to another destination of traditional mass tourism and it has great possibility to put the monkey’s habitat in jeopardy. Therefore, NCWT in Liju and Jinsichang areas, a new form of ecotourism to the China’s tourism operators, could play an important role to improve the sustainable tourism operation in China.
4.1 Methodology During a one-month period in the summer of 2012, I conducted visitor-intercept surveys at two locations in Yunnan Province. The first survey targeted tourists in Lijiang old town as potential national park visitors and was designed to assess the tourists’ awareness of ecotourism, preferences of wildlife tourism, and expectations for their visit to the Laojun Mountain National Park. The survey was conducted from July 10th to 16th. Five hotels located in Lijiang old town were randomly selected (I selected a hotel 500 meters east from Sifangjie square as the starting point and identified 4 other hotels 1000 meters away from 4 directions) and recruited hotel guests in front of the hotel gates when they passed through to participate in the survey.
The second survey was an on-site, intercept survey in Laojun Mountain National Park. I contacted every third tourist I encountered along park trails and gathered information about their motivations, satisfaction to visit the national park, and preferences of wildlife tourism. Both survey questionnaires also contained questions designed to describe basic demographic characteristics of tourist participants. I also participated in efforts by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), a non-profit land trust, to
gather information on economic conditions, livelihood and welfare of residents, natural resource usage, gathering and grazing behaviors and Environmental protection awareness among community members in that area. Besides the site visit in Laojun Mountain National Park, I also visited the Shangri-La Snub-nosed Monkey National Park located in Tacheng, Weixi County to observe the operation in this park, and describe the attitudes and satisfaction of the visitors at this wildlife viewing site. However, due to the weather condition and a recent landslide along the major road to the park, there were few tourists visiting the park during the weekend I stayed. In total, I interviewed 5 tourists I encountered in the park.
While working in TNC Lijiang office, I also had the opportunity to work in TNC’s community-based conservation project located in Liju, Yulong County. While there, I conducted in-depth interviews with relevant TNC-China staff and project partners, including officers in Lijiang Tourism Bureau, Lijiang Forestry Bureau, and the Congress director of Yulong County. I also interviewed the Chief of Snub-nosed Monkey National Park Administration Bureau about the operation and development plan of the park. In what follows, I explore the opportunities and challenges of primate tourism in Laojun Mountain National Park.
4.2 Study area The proposed national park at Laojun Mountain is projected to cover an area of 1,085 km2. Located 60km from the city of Lijiang, it will serve as a showcase of the biological and cultural diversity at the heart of the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in northwest Yunnan which contains the headwaters of the Yangtze, Mekong, and Salween Rivers (Figure 6 and 7). Laojun Mountain is home to 168 endangered plant and animal species, including the Yunnan Snub-nosed Monkey. It also
Figure 6 Location or the Laojun Mountain area Source: The Nature Conservancy China Program, Kunming, Yunnan, P. R. China.
Figure 7 Laojun Mountain NP Map Source LJMNP website
boasts 10 percent of the world's rhododendron species (Laojun Mountain Project TNC, 2007). The Laojun Mountain National Park area focus on 7 Townships in the region
(Shitou, Jiuhe, Liming, Shigu, Ludian, Tacheng, and Judian). There are over 19,000 settlements within site and the total population is over 72,000, most of which falls within 7 of China’s minority groups (Naxi, Bai, Tibetan, Lisu, Yi, Pumi, and Malimasa). (Laojun Mountain Project TNC, 2004). Due to the unique geography, geology, geomorphology, and vertical climatic range, a vast diversity of plants and animals can be found in this area (Tang & Wangy, 2006).
These characteristics make the area a potentially valuable region for ecotourism development (TNC China Program, 2004). I chose Liju as the possible NCWT host community, for it is only two kilometers away from the core zone of Laojun Mountain National Park and adjacent to the Yunnan Snub-nosed Monkey habitat.
4.3 Status of Snub-nosed monkey as attraction in study area As a flagship species in Southwest China, the Yunnan snub-nosed monkey is one of the most endangered primates in the world. Together with the famous Giant Panda, t they attract the most public interest and generate interests and generate great motivation in ecotourism, especially in wildlife tourism. However, it is experiencing a range of ongoing threats and the persisting effects of past disturbances.
The prospects for this species are not very optimistic because habitat corridors are severely damaged by logging, grazing, and mining. Despite the fact that the vegetation on Mt. Laojun is in a relatively pristine state, only two groups of monkeys, of a total of just fewer than 300, survive in the area (Figure 8). Consequently, development of Mt. Laojun as an ecotourism destination must be done carefully to avoid irreparable harm to the snub-nosed monkey population.
Figure 8 Yunnan Snub-nosed monkey distribution map. Source: The Nature Conservancy China Program, Kunming, Yunnan, China.
4.4 Local economies and tourism facilities By the end of 2011, according to the baseline survey report conducted by TNC, the population in Liju community conservation area was 1361 and distributed in 346 households among 13 village groups. The majority tribe was Lisu and others were Pumi, Yi and Han. The land types of Liju contain forest, cultivated land, pasture, charcoal-burning areas and gathering sites. The gathering activities performed at the northwest of Liju, are away from the residential areas and overlap with monkey habitat. In 2011, the gross income per capita for Liju was RMB 6926 and showed
diversity in income structure. Before the Natural Forestry Protection Program of 1998, which banned the cutting of timber, the community could earn income from logging. Now medicinal plantation like Rheum rhabarbarum and Gastrodia elata , played a relatively important role in the community. In the aspect of tourism facilities, road conditions were relatively poor. Based on personal experience, it will take up to 4 hours from the nearest Lijiang airport (50 miles) to reach Liju. In the mountain region, there were no continuous paved roads for heavy traffic and it will be difficult for tour buses to go through.
The suitable transportation will be four/all-wheel drive vehicles. However, according to Laojun Mountain master plan (2008), a new paved road will be built to connect Liju and the closest highway. Because the tourism development is still in the planning process, there was no commercial hotel in the village. However, with the assistance of previous NGOs’ projects (Global Environmental Institute, 2007 and TNC, 2009), two hostels ran by local villagers were built. Nowadays, these hostels are only used for NGO staffs and government officers.
But with the future tourism development, more hostels will be built and generate income to the community. Besides the two hostels in the village, a ranger station was built within the range of monkey habitat. The woody cabin can easily accommodate 30 to 40 visitors. There was a full-time ranger living in the station and hikers occasionally spent the night in it. (Figure 9)
Figure 9 Ranger station in LJMNP. (07/10/2012) The sign says: Yunnan snub-nosed monkeys are national treasure. Don’t let them disappear from our watch.
For future NCWT development, the cabin can be considered as a base camp for the monkey viewing trip and with nearby water resources and sufficient open ground, it can be easily upgraded to a more comfortable condition. Besides the ranger station, in Jinsichang area, an observation tower was built in order to search for monkeys and it was suitable for possible tent campsite development. Before implementation, sanitation issues and possible impacts to the environment should be addressed.
4.5 Locals attitude towards NCWT Historically, the livelihood of villagers in Liju community was based on timber selling. After the banned logging program in 1998, illegal logging, over-harvesting of non-timber forest products and poaching of wildlife to increase income are occurring in the nature reserve, and unregulated slash-and-burn agriculture and livestock grazing are common in the community (TNC China Program, 2004).
Nowadays, with a series of environmental education programs conducted by government and NGOs, most of the residents thought proper forestry management should be implemented for better use of the forest and to prevent illegal logging. And according to the base-line survey, more villagers stated that they will help to stop poaching activities and illegal
logging behaviors. Moreover, with the help of TNC, a community-based patrol team was established in 2008 and has operated an effective routine patrol system since then (Figure 10).
Figure 10 Part of the community-based patrol team. (7/11/2012) Ranger Zhiming Zhang and other two rangers.
Although the environmental protection awareness seems improved within the community, the poaching and illegal logging activities still exist. (Figure 11 and 12) Traditionally, the livelihood of the Lisu minority tribe in the community was based on hunting and many Lisu people are still hunting wildlife inside the nature reserve (Laojun Mountain NP Baseline report, 2012). Moreover, because the gathering areas for bamboo shoot, potherb and other wild herbs are heavily overlapped with the monkey habitats, these unregulated gathering activities may cause negative impacts for the monkeys’ survive.
For example, according to the interview with an experienced ranger (Zhiming, Zhang), many villagers brought dogs with them in the gathering areas and disturbed the daily movement and feeding behavior of the monkeys. He also pointed out the traps set by the hunters that aim to catch other animals but that might be lethal to monkeys as well. With regard to ecotourism awareness, the local people showed a great interest to participate in tourism development. Although the understanding of the term “ecotourism” may be limited, the aspiration for economic development among local people provides an incentive
for them to participate in future tourism development. It is reasonable to predict the villagers will support the NCWT that has the potential to bring visitors and economic benefits to the community. When asked the villagers’ ideas of “tourism”, the common understanding of tourism development among them comes from the neighboring city of Lijiang. The Lijiang Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is facing severe environmental problems as a
result of becoming an internationally famous travel destination targeting the mass tourism market (Ning & He, 2007). Once considered to be a perfect destination for cultural tourism and ecotourism, Lijiang’s Old Town is quite often related to enhanced roads access, massive amounts of hotels and restaurants, and a large number of tourists. It is clear that, although local people are aware that they have access to unique and diverse range of biological resources, they have limited ideas and experiences as to how to make good use of these resources.
Without sufficient knowledge and capabilities, villagers in Liju need external support to assist them in reaching a more locally appropriate understanding of tourism and to undertake a well-organized NCWT that assures environmental conservation and economic development.
Figure 11 Young man with hunting rifle in Shitou county. (07/11/2012)
Figure 12 Ranger Zhang walked on the illegal logged wood boards in LJMNP. (07/10/2012)
4.6 The wildlife There are two families, about 300 Yunnan Snub-nosed monkeys inhabiting nature reserves near reserve near Liju and Jinsichang. Without any habituation and feeding activities, these monkeys roam free within their home range. A Snub-nosed monkey locomotion study conducted by ecologists in 2003 in Liju and Jinsichang area showed that average daily travel distance of the monkey group was around 1 km and the home range was around 30 km2 (Wu, et al., 2005).These scientific data, together with the patrol team with years of monkey tracking and monitoring experiences, indicate that encounters with monkeys are predictable. According to the description of
the rangers, after years of interaction with humans, monkeys have already shown some sort of tolerance to human activities and can be observed within a close range (50-100m). The monkey habitats location in a mountain terrain, high altitude (3000-4500) and cold temperature (-13 -16.2℃) might be considered a hindrance for habitat accessibility. However, the difficulty of the trip may