Tag Archives: tourism

Tourism needs to start considering invasive plants

In 1876, the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition featured an intriguing plant from Japan. It was hardy, fast-growing, and good at preventing soil erosion. Kudzu, as the plant was named, is an excellent vine, advertisers said — it’s even edible, as long as you don’t spray it with pesticides.

Fast forward a few decades to the 1940s and kudzu had become a staple in some regions of the US. Hardy and fast-growing it was — but farmers didn’t understand just how fast-growing it was. It expanded its area dramatically, climbing over trees and shrubs and killing them in the process. Where kudzu was planted, it took over the landscape, overrunning it and altering the environment as it went.

Kudzu, the invasive plant, became an ecological disaster.

Like US farmers, we can all be agents that introduce invasive species to pristine environments — and it’s more important than ever to avoid doing this.

Kudzu growing on trees in the US. Image credits: Scott Ehardt.

Invasive species

Invasive species are species that are not native to a specific location, with a tendency to outcompete native plants and cause substantial environmental damage to the environment — as well as the economy, and sometimes, even human health.

Kudzu is hardly an isolated example. Invasive species come in all shapes and sizes — they can be plants or animals, land or sea-based, and can come from a variety of sources. It’s estimated that in the US alone, invasive species cause damage of $120 billion a year.

Take cargo ships, for instance. It’s estimated that 10,000 different species, many of which are non-indigenous, are transported via ballast water each day. Many invasive shells come on the hulls of ships, and get transported all around the world.

In some cases, invasive species can do a world of damage. Take Australia, for instance: it’s one ecological disaster after the next, and much of it is related to invasive species. Starting from rabbits and cane toads, and moving on to foxes, cats, and even cames — when invasive species reach Australia, it’s usually a recipe for disaster. But invasive species aren’t limited to Australia or the US, and they aren’t just related to farming and international trade.

Tourism and invasive species

Tourism involves frequent congregation of people and vehicles, often coming from one part of the world and going to the other. It’s a major pathway for the movement of invasive species, and with low-cost flights, people can travel virtually anywhere, with relative ease.

Understandably, most people want to travel somewhere nice. Whether it’s a beach, a mountainous area, or simply a quiet place with a lot of nature, much of the world’s tourism revolves around protected areas.

The problem is that these areas are particularly vulnerable to invasive species. With invasive species being the hitchhikers they are, they can easily be brought in by unwitting tourists.

Dream-like sceneries are often in protected areas — which are vulnerable to invasive species.

In Antarctica, annual bluegrass (an invasive weed) has become commonplace. Tourists (and even scientists) carry it in, concluded a study published in the journal Polar Research. In New Zealand, anglers and kayakers are bringing in pest species on unwashed gear, leaving the authorities struggling. In Thailand and much of south-east Asia, invasive species are threatening emblematic local species, and much of that damage can be traced back to tourism. In places such as Nepal or Kenya, rhinos and other large herbivores are threatened by invasive species which leaves them little place to forage.

A global assessment found that “that the abundance and richness of non-native species are significantly higher in sites where recreational activities took place” — in other words, touristic activity and invasive species go hand in hand. While tourism is not the main way through which invasive species travel, it is still an important part of the equation and one which is potentially easier to tackle.

But tourism is also a way to bring money into these areas — money which can support sustainable development and even conservation, if used wisely A 2018 study concluded that:

“Tourism provides a crucial and unique way of fostering visitors’ connection with protected area values, making it a potentially positive force for conservation.”

So simply banning tourism is not a solution. But becoming more responsible is.

Of course, much of the responsibility falls on local authorities and how well they care for the ecosystem. But that doesn’t mean we should simply point our finger and rid ourselves of all responsibility. Each of us also needs to act responsibly, both as tourists and in our day to day lives.

Traveling in a remote place? Wash your boots, thoroughly. Wash your clothes before and after traveling, and try to keep them clean of any insects and spores. This is particularly important for fishing gear: you might think it’s clean, but it’s probably not.

The Japanese Beetle is endemic in Japan, but it is an invasive species in the US. Image credits: Robert Thiemann.

Be conscious about bringing invasive plants to your touristic location, as well as from it.

If you’re considering buying seeds and planting them back home, make sure it’s not an invasive species or one that can cause significant damage. If traveling by car, make sure to keep it clean of any insects. The first Japanese beetle found in Canada was discovered in a tourist’s car at Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and this is a good example of how, unwittingly, tourism can spread invasive species.

Most importantly, we need to be wary of the impact our tourism brings. Native species are particularly vulnerable on islands, and islands tend to be touristic hotspots. Take the Galapagos islands, for instance. At least 1,579 species have been introduced, of which 98% came alongside humans, and more than 70% of these came since the Galapagos became a popular touristic destination in the 1970s.

It’s estimated that, on average, 27 new species are introduced to the Galapagos every year. In the Galapagos and beyond, plants are the most common type of introduced species, followed by insects (often, as a contaminant on plants).

Oftentimes, the tourists aren’t even aware that they’ve become a vector, so this is something we should start considering. Researchers expect that as biosecurity measures grow, the threat of invasive species will decrease, but there’s no substitute for being a responsible tourist.

Invasive species are one of the most overlooked environmental threats. Global trade is responsible for the lion’s share of invasive plant spreading, but tourism also plays a significant role. Clean your travel bags and all its contents before and immediately after the trip, and consider ecotourism as an option. Be mindful of your impact, and travel responsibly — it can make an important difference.

Shutting down for maintenance: Faroe Islands close to tourism, call volunteers help

The Faroe Islands, halfway between Norway and Island, will be closed to tourists and will only welcome volunteers in April 15-17, 2020, to help out on different maintenance projects.

Credit Wikipedia Commons

The territory, an archipelago controlled by Denmark but not a part of the European Union, has seen a record number of tourists in the last few years. While in 2013 68.000 people visited the islands, last year the number scaled to 110.000, double the population of the islands.

It is composed of 18 islands covering 1399 square km (545.3 sq miles), just 113 km (70 miles) long and 75 km (47 miles) wide. There are people living in 17 islands, leaving just one inhabited. There are a lot of smaller islets around the archipelago as well, making for a rugged, picturesque setting.

Visitors arrive from different corners of the world due to the islands’ rugged beauty, including a blue ocean, vertical sea cliffs, green mountains, and a picturesque valley. There are about 70.00 sheep and two million pairs of seabirds on the island, including the biggest colony of storm petrels in the world.

Such a tourism boom has caused fear among the local authorities, concerned over the effects it could cause on local ecosystems. But they came up with a solution, calling volunteers a few times per year to ask for help on different projects, from road maintenance to erecting signposts.

“For us, tourism is not all about numbers,” Guðrið Højgaard, Director at Visit Faroe Islands, told CNN recently. “We welcome visitors to the islands each year, but we also have a responsibility to our community and to our beautiful environment, and our aim is to preserve and protect the islands, ensuring sustainable and responsible growth.”

Getting ready for 2020

Back on April 26 and 27, the island decided to do a pilot of its volunteer initiative, preparing for the official start in 2020. While the hotels remained open and the flights operated normally, several tourisms attractions closed down. Thousands applied to volunteer but only 100 were accepted.

“Closed for maintenance, open for voluntarism,” read a notice on the Faroe Islands website back then, warning any potential visitors of the planned activities during the April weekend.

Volunteers arrived from Mexico, Israel, Australia, China, and the United States and were assigned in teams to different projects across the islands, each of a different level of difficulty. All involved handling equipment such as shovels, hammers, and screwdrivers.

A group went to the island of Mykines, usually visited by travelers due to the bird colonies. They built a new route as well as a bird-watching site. Another one went to Klakkur, one of the high mountains surrounding Klaksvík, the second largest town. They repaired the path, which was worn and muddy.

“It has been wonderful to see so many faces from around the world come together with local villagers and farmers with one united mission and a ‘roll-up-your-sleeves’ attitude,” says director Guðrið Hojgaard.

Not the first case

Fairly close to the archipelago, Iceland has been dealing with similar issues due to its growing popularity among tourists – with 2.2 million arriving there last year. That’s six times the population of the country, putting pressure on its infrastructure and ecosystems.

Iceland has taken efforts to limit the number of tourists and ensure the sustainability of its tourism industry. It’s not an easy thing to manage, and visitors are also asked to play a role in the process.

“As part of our welcome, we wanted to create a pledge which we’ll encourage all visitors to take, creating an army of people who know how to stay safe and also how to look after our delicate nature, said Icelandic Tourism Minister Þórdís Kolbrún R. Gylfadóttir.

Yusaku Maezawa.

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa will be the first Moon tourist — and he’s bringing artists along

Elon Musk and SpaceX have announced that Japanese entrepreneur and billionaire Yusaku Maezawa will be the company’s first Moon tourist.

Yusaku Maezawa.

Yusaku Maezawa.
Image credits SpaceX.

Last week, SpaceX unveiled its plans to send two passengers aboard a rocket on a trip around the Moon. The company didn’t disclose any names at the time, but a tweet by owner Elon Musk hinted that one of the passengers may be Japanese. That hint was spot-on: Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese entrepreneur and billionaire, has purchased all the seats on the Big Falcon Rocket’s (BFR) first crewed flight.

A mission of culture

“Finally I can tell you that I choose to go to the Moon!” Maezawa said during an announcement Monday evening.

Maezawa, a known and enthusiastic art collector, plans to embark with six to eight artists, which will accompany him around the Earth’s natural satellite. The artists have not yet been chosen, but the billionaire hopes they will include a musician, sculptor, painter, film director, dancer, photographer, architect, novelist, and fashion designer. Part of the project — which Maezawa christened #dearMoon — will involve them creating work inspired by their journey after they return to Earth.

“One day when I was staring at his painting, I thought, ‘What if Basquiat had gone to space and had seen the Moon – what wonderful masterpiece would he have created?” Maezawa said, referring to a 1982 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat he bought last year.

“If you should hear from me, please say yes and accept my invitation. Please don’t say no,” he added for all the artists out there.

Musk described Maezawa as ‘incredibly brave’ for embarking on this mission, adding that his desire to participate in and pay for this trip restored Musk’s faith in humanity.

The mission is slated to launch as soon as 2023, though Musk said he can’t be sure about that timeline yet as “things do not go right in reality” and that “usually there are setbacks and issues”.

“It’s not 100 percent certain that we succeed in getting this to flight,” he addded, “but we’re going to do everything humanly possible to bring it to flight as fast as we can and as safely as we can.”

Rocket v2.0

The BFR is also getting some changes to its design, Musk revealed alongside Maezawa’s participation on the mission. The rocket will be 387 feet (118 meters) tall, a full 40 feet (12 meters) taller than previous versions. It’s also going to receive front actuator (steering) fins, as well as three back wings to function as landing pads. The system’s spaceship is expected to carry up to 100 people and 150 tons (136 metric tonnes) of supplies.

The first portion of the system has already been built, Musk added. Total development costs for the rocket fall somewhere between US$2 billion and US$10 billion.

“It’s hard to say what the development cost is,” he said. “I think it’s roughly US$5 billion”

SpaceX did not reveal any exact figures on how much Maezawa paid for the lunar flight, only that it as a significant sum and that a down payment has already been made.

“He’s paying a lot of money that would help with the ship and its booster,” Musk said on Monday. “He’s ultimately paying for the average citizen to travel to other planets.”

Global tourism generates 8% of the planet’s emissions

A new study found that overall, tourism might account for almost four times more emissions than we thought.

Who doesn’t like a good vacation? Detaching yourself from all the stress, going somewhere else, enjoying the fun and relaxation — but it all comes at a cost. It’s not just the money, but also the emissions. Global tourism is a trillion-dollar industry with a large-scale environmental impact. While previous studies found that tourism emissions account for 2.5–3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, researchers now report that the figure is actually closer to 8%.

Arunima Malik, Manfred Lenzen, and colleagues conducted a comprehensive analysis of tourism, finding that previous studies didn’t fully consider all the emissions embodied in transportation choices, and they also tended to ignore emissions from food and beverage production, infrastructure, and retail services at destinations.

[panel style=”panel-info” title=”Emissions” footer=””]Many of the things we do generate carbon dioxide (CO2). It’s not just transportation, but also food and clothes. For instance, eating a pound of beef produces more emissions than burning a gallon of gasoline, due to the CO2-emitting processes associated with beef production.[/panel]

“By definition, the carbon footprint of tourism should include the carbon emitted directly during tourism activities (for example, combustion of petrol in vehicles) as well as the carbon embodied in the commodities purchased by tourists (for example, food, accommodation, transport, fuel and shopping),” researchers write in the study. “Tourism carbon footprints therefore need to be evaluated using methods that cover the life cycle or supply chain emissions of tourism-related goods and services”

Interestingly, the study reports that tourism emissions are tightly associated with income — the wealthier you are, the more you travel, and the more likely you are to travel to an exotic, faraway place. The carbon footprint decreased slightly with technology, due to energy-saving tech and transportation. The time of travel seemed to have no influence over the total generated emissions.

Image credits: Malik et al.

Americans were responsible for the most emissions, taking the top four spots. Americans traveling to Canada generated 75 megatons of CO2, followed by Americans in Mexico, Americans in the UK, and, surprisingly, Americans in Japan.

Importantly, emissions produced through tourism are experiencing a slow but steady increase. Researchers also note that a big part of these emissions are not targeted by the Paris Agreement and are therefore unlikely to be reduced. Furthermore, under Trump, the US, the largest contributor to these emissions, has vowed to back out of the Paris Agreement. As global GDP increases, tourism emissions are set to grow.

Researchers encourage people to seek out more eco-friendly travel opportunities. Try to travel closer to home, if at all possible. When at the destination, public transportation or biking can be used instead of renting a car. Eating foods that are local grown (and less meat) can also help reduce emissions. For more information, read our full article on ecotourism and why we need more of it.

The study has been published in Nature Climate Change.

What is ecotourism and why we need more of it

Ecotourism is a form of sustainable travel that supports the local environment instead of putting more pressure on it and exploiting its resources.

Things are rarely simple, however, and ecotourism is a complex concept. Its importance is growing more and more each year, as more and more people travel farther and farther away. If you care about nature, the environment, and local communities, you should ensure that your travels are carried out sustainably. Here’s how.

A bridge in ecotourism area of Thenmala, Kerala in India – India’s first planned ecotourism destination. Image via Wikipedia.

What is ecotourism anyway?

The problems with ecotourism start right from the definition, as people working in different fields (academic, tourism, policy) tend to prefer somewhat differing approaches.

There are a few definitions which stand out. The one which is generally accepted in most circles is the one from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN):

“Environmentally responsible travel to natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and accompanying cultural features, both past and present) that promote conservation, have a low visitor impact and provide for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local peoples.”

Local market in Tanzania. Photo by Rasheed hamis.

Another, simpler and more to the point definition is given by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), which says that ecotourism is “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” In practice, this implies several things.

The first thing it implies is a level of awareness from the tourist. Tourists should be aware of their impact both on the local environment and on the local community and should try, within reasonable limits, to reduce this impact. Furthermore, the tourist should not only try to do as little damage as possible, but also to support the local community whenever this is possible. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the whole experience becomes less pleasant — on the contrary. This appreciation attitude often leads to the traveler enjoying his experience even more.

It’s also important not to be fooled by pleasant words — a vacation isn’t “ecotourism” just because it says so on the label, and many companies will advertise vacations as eco-friendly without actual justification. A recent study found that many such offers aren’t really helping local ecosystems. Ecotourism is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the tourism industry, and tour operators will try to lure clients using eco-advertising.

However, when used properly, ecotourism can make a difference and help species in need.

The Cliffs of Moher, one of Ireland’s most popular attractions are visited by loads and loads of people every month. Local authorities are working on ways to ensure the eco-friendliness of these visits. Photo by Dora Meulman.

Looking at things from a wider perspective, it’s also about the size of the groups. You can’t do mass-ecotourism, it’s an oxymoron — ecotourism has to be done in small or medium groups. There is also usually a strong educational component associated with ecotourism, which also helps, but is not mandatory. Common themes in this context are recycling, responsible water consumption, local craftsmanship, and cycling or walking as opposed to driving. A great emphasis is placed on protecting local species, especially threatened species.

Why we need ecotourism

According to the Air Transport Action Group, the world’s airlines carried a total of over 3 billion passengers in 2013, a figure which has steadily increased since. Oxford Economics expects that figure to almost double, reaching 5.9 billion by 2030. All these people are not only emitting huge quantities of CO2 (indirectly) but also putting great pressure on many environments.

There’s no getting around it: as living standards increase globally, tourism is set to grow, and tourism places a substantial burden on ecosystems.

Tourists also require additional infrastructure, such as water treatment plants, sanitation facilities, and lodging. Oftentimes, local communities are not able to sustainably offer these conditions and the results can be devastating. In many parts of Africa for example, large-scale tourism led to the improper disposal of campsite sewage. This, in turn, resulted in the contamination of the nearest river where wildlife, livestock, and people draw drinking water — but that’s just the start of it.

Especially in vulnerable areas, the increase in visitors can lead to significant environmental degradation. Local communities can also be harmed by an influx of tourists as the money influx is rarely directed towards them. Wherever people go, we leave behind garbage – and even if it is left in bins, it can still create a dangerous imbalance. Safaris and animal photographing can scare creatures. Feeding wildlife can teach them bad habits and leave them depending on humans. Even just walking can lead to soil erosion and destruction of animal paths. It can be hard to accept, but everything we do has an impact on wildlife – we should be conscious of this.

Are you riding an elephant? Then you’re probably not doing ecotourism. Being in nature and touching wild animals isn’t helping anyone. Photo by BrokenSphere

Examples abound. In the Antarctic, one of the planet’s most vulnerable areas, it can take hundreds of years for any rubbish to decompose and tourists leave behind plenty of garbage. In Australia, tourists are accelerating the downfall of the Great Barrier Reef, and in Africa, tourism jobs are poorly paid, yet tourism is pushing the prices up – the money isn’t going to the locals, but prices are rising. It can be really easy to make a difference, and giving up on mass-tourism is a much-needed first step.

In this context, ecotourism can make a dramatic difference, removing the environmental impact or, at the very least, reducing it.

The world absolutely needs more ecotourism. It teaches travelers to be more attuned to the pristine areas of the world, it helps educate people, it provides funds for conservation as well as for local communities (often indigenous). Also, because a state of respect and awareness is awakened in the tourist, the quality of his travels is also increased significantly.

The goals of ecotourism

Some people consider the terms ‘ecotourism’ and ‘sustainable tourism’ to be an oxymoron altogether — that you can’t travel in a way that helps the environment. First of all, you have to get from one place to another which almost always means a plane, which burns fossil fuels. Secondly, no matter how much you try, your impact will still be negative. But while that is at least worth considering, it’s taking away from the point. If you’ve decided to travel, you can still do a lot to reduce your impact and at least in some aspects, even make a positive difference. There is always room for improvement. Here’s how.

Traditional pottery in Mexico. Photo by Cameron Nordholm.

As long as these objectives are fulfilled, I’d dare say that ecotourism is successful:

  • Build environmental and cultural awareness. The first step to doing something is by understanding what you should be doing.
  • Minimize impact. If you must, travel by plane. If you can avoid it, try a train instead. Walk or bike instead of driving or at the very least, use public transportation. Respect local resources and don’t waste.
  • Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts. The first one is a given, but the second one is often neglected. Respect the locals, their community and support them and their values.
  • Provide direct financial benefits for conservation. If it’s real ecotourism, much of the money you’re paying will go to conservation.
  • Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people. Buy local, authentic products – they’re higher quality, genuine, and they support the locals. This way, they get much more financial benefits than from mass tourism – even if the number of tourists is much lower.
  • Raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climate. This is the trickiest and hardest to accomplish goal. It’s never easy to do, and sometimes it can be even hard to understand what it means.

Ecotourism and greenwashing

Ecotourism is one of the fastest growing sectors of tourism, reporting growths of 10-15% annually worldwide. Unfortunately, this has had many negative consequences – especially for options masquerading as ecotourism which are actually detrimental to the environment.

Tourists at the Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands. Garden tourism, like jungle tourism is not the same as ecotourism – even though you are in nature. Photo by Chuck Szmurlo.

An important fact of eco-friendly travels is avoiding “green” traps.

Some people mistake any form of nature travel with ecotourism. Just because you’re in nature doesn’t mean you’re doing something right – on the contrary, it often means that your impact is high and negative. Things like jungle travel or adventure travel are not eco-friendly and shouldn’t be confused as such even though many touristic operators use buzz words like “green” or “eco-friendly” – this is a clear case of greenwashing.

So, if something is said to be eco-friendly, how can we know when it is or when it’s not? Well, think about the first objective and use your awareness. If the trip involves walking through the jungle, does that walk help nature and locals in any way? If they say the money goes towards conservation, how much is going that way? Is it 1 percent? 10 percent? 70 percent? Ask questions like these before you decide what’s eco-friendly and what’s not. Pay special attention to petting zoos or so-called sanctuaries.

That’s the bottom line, ecotourism should concern three main things:

  1. the wellbeing of the local environment
  2. the wellbeing of the locals
  3. the high-quality experience of the tourist.

It’s a way to make a massive difference and it’s something which I hope more and more people will start doing.

Illustration: Dubai Holding

Dubai plans to build an entire city under a glass dome

simpsons_dome-

The Simpsons Movie’s plot starts off with Homer adopting a messy piglet he names “Spider Pig”.  The pig, helped a great deal by Homer, made enough waste to fill a silo in just two days, so how does Homer decide to solve this problem? Naturally, being Homer (doh!), he throws away the silo into the lake, causing an environmental disaster in the process. Left with no choice by the EPA,  Arnold Schwarzenegger decides the best course of action is to put a dome over Springfield. Like the Simpsons’ Schwarzenegger, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum thought it’s a good idea to close a whole city inside a glass dome. The only difference is that we’re dealing with reality, instead of fiction this time!

Illustration: Dubai Holding

Illustration: Dubai Holding

Appropriately called Mall of the World, the city will cover an area of 48 million square feet and will set new records for various large behemoth structures: the largest indoor theme park in the world (the one actually covered by the dome), the largest mall (8 million sq. ft.), along with 20,000 hotel rooms catering to all types of tourists, and a cultural district with theaters built around New York’s Broadway, Ramblas Street in Barcelona, and London’s Oxford Street. If you ever had any doubt that Dubai has a thing for the ‘big’, here you go…

Take that, Lord of the Rings! Illustration: Dubai Holding

Take that, Lord of the Rings! Illustration: Dubai Holding

The seven-kilometer-long promenades connecting the facilities will also be covered and air-conditioned during summer. The Mall of the World will also come complete with a dedicated 3 million sq. ft. wellness zone catering to medical tourists.

“It will offer a holistic experience to medical tourists and their families, ensuring access to quality healthcare, specialized surgical procedures and cosmetic treatments, wellness facilities, and high-end hospitality options”, according to a Dubai Holding statement.

What’s it all about?

Illustration: Dubai Holding

Illustration: Dubai Holding

It’s not only about satisfying a huge ego — don’t get me wrong, it’s about that too. Dubai natives, the upper class at least, have become filthy rich as a result of their deals with big oil corporations that paid them big cash in royalties in return for permission to drill the sands like there’s no tomorrow. The UAE isn’t stupid though. The government knows that the oil will run out eventually, so they’re massively shifting their eggs into more baskets since apart from oil the country doesn’t really have any commodity it can trade – unless you can count sound.

Illustration: Dubai Holding

Illustration: Dubai Holding

So, the Sheikh and cohort have been starting to invest their (big) money in alternative means of income. One is high technology (they’re planning on building the most well-equipped and leading university in the world), and the other is tourism. The latter is where the Mall of the World fits in, as its investors hope on garnering 180 million visitors annually, joining a synthetic oasis that already is filled with the tallest skyscrapers and biggest shopping malls in the world.

While the entire project is estimated to take a period of at least 10 years to complete, the 8 million square foot mall will be ready in approximately three years. Meanwhile, though, the World Bank is already breathing up the Sheikh’s neck, reminding him of the 2009 debt crisis, snowballed exactly by a situation like this – a real estate bubble.

Tourist fed stingrays dramatically change their behavior

I had the chance to witness, on several occasions, how bears change their behaviors when people feed them (which they really shouldn’t!). Bears, who usually just avoid people, or if they feel threatened display some sort of aggressive behavior, just started to beg for food, much like a dog around Thanksgiving dinner. This dramatically altered their general behavior, and as it turns out, it’s not just bears.

stingray

Stingray populations that have substantial interaction with tourists, such as those in some regions of the Cayman Islands, have started to act very different than they would naturally do. First of all, they completely modified their schedule; from nocturnal animals, they are now diurnal, adapting to the humans’ schedule. Second of all, stingrays which are solitary animals are now gathering in “packs” (there’s not even a word for more of them), and instead of mating seasonally, they now mate all year round. Oh, and that’s not all – they’re also much more aggressive than they used to be.

So you change their schedule by 180 degrees, you change how they mate, how they interact with each other, and how aggressive they are – pretty much everything. The populations in case here are a part of the so-called ‘interactive tourism’ that has become popular in many parts of the Caribbean; basically, tourists get the chance to interact with animals in a relatively controlled environment.

“Measuring that impact is important because there’s a lot of interest in creating more of these interactive ecotourism operations, but we know little about the life histories of the animals involved or how they might change,” said study co-author Guy Harvey, a marine wildlife artist and conservationist that started the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation with Nova Southeastern University of Fort Lauderdale.

But as I explained above, no one really considered the effect humans will have on the animals.

“We saw some very clear and very prominent behavioral changes, and were surprised by how these large animals had essentially become homebodies in a tiny area,” said study co-author Mahmood Shivji, director of the Guy Harvey Research Institute and NSU Oceanographic Center professor, who led the study. There are likely to be some health costs that come with these behavior changes, and they could be detrimental to the animals’ well-being in the long term,” Shivji said. “Stingray City means big business in the Cayman Islands, where each stingray generates as much as $500,000 annually in tourism income,” Harvey said. “The team plans to continue to monitor Stingray City’s population to track its health — and the industry’s impact — over time.”

What’s interesting if you ask me is just how fast animals adapt to the change in their environment. But when you look at the big picture, the role that humans have in the extinction of the many animals becomes more and more evident.

Via PlanetSave

Cano Cristales – the world’s most colourful river

Caño Cristales is a river located in Northern Columbia, with a length of almost 100 km and a width of under 20 meters. If you look at it, you’d be tempted to think this is some sort of illusion or photographic trick, but you’d be wrong.

Photo by Mario Carvajal.

Photo by Mario Carvajal.

It’s quite remote, and you can get there only by foot, horses and donkeys, but that doesn’t stop tourists from flooding in. There were so many of them that visiting it was actually forbidden for several years. Now it’s open, but within reasonable limits. The river is a rainbow of colors, changing from corner to corner.

Photo by Mario Carvajal.

Photo by Mario Carvajal.

Photo by Mario Carvajal.

Photo by Mario Carvajal.

The hard rocks which make most of the bottom of the river are covered with moss, which most of the year have a dull green or brown colour. In the rainy season the water is too deep for the colours to bloom, and in the dry season there’s just not enough water to support all the moss.

Photo by Mario Carvajal.

Photo by Mario Carvajal.

Photo by Mario Carvajal.

Photo by Mario Carvajal.

However, there is a window during these seasons when the water level is just right, and the dazzling display of colours appears to delight the eye.

Uno de los lugares más hermosos de Caño Cristales es el sector conocido como Los Ochos, donde se encuentran formaciones rocosas de gran belleza, llamadas Marmitas de Gigante — Licencia Creative Commons Reconocimiento 4.0 Internacional. Algunos derechos reservados, 2014 por Fotur / Fotografía: Mario Carvajal (http://www.mariocarvajal.com). Usted puede usar esta foto gratuitamente según la licencia establecida en Fotur (http://www.fotur.org), haciendo el v'inculo hacia www.cano-cristales.com

Photo by Mario Carvajal.

 

Photo by Mario Carvajal.

Photo by Mario Carvajal.

 

 

 

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