Friday 4 October 2019.
With Maire Kirkland, Durham University
Wildlife tourism represents an opportunity for protected areas to generate revenue for biodiversity conservation. Currently, the drivers of wildlife tourism remain ill-defined, though species attractiveness, rarity, richness, and site accessibility have all been cited as influential. A better understanding of tourist preferences could reveal under-valued biodiversity assets and inform the likely consequences of community changes due to climate and socio-economic change.
Here, we use information from the wildlife tourism literature to evaluate the traits that drive species attractiveness and identify species and regions of the world that have under-exploited tourism potential. Using phylogenetic comparative methods, we found that species attractiveness was determined by body mass, range size, extinction risk, evolutionary distinctiveness, diurnal activity, habitat association, remoteness, political stability, and sociality.
Based on these traits, South America were identified as an under-utilised hotspot with attractive bird communities, and Sub-Saharan Africa was identified as an under-utilised region for terrestrial mammal viewing. Making better use of currently under-utilised tourism attractants could open up previously untapped resources for biodiversity conservation.
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