Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Discussion Question 12

Ecotourism is defined as responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well being of local people. It aims to unite conservation, communities, and sustainable travel to raise funds for conservation and increase cultural awareness.

I chose to investigate sea lions and their behavioral responses to humans in their natural environment on Granito Island in the Gulf of California, in a study completed by K. Holcomb. This paper addressed the most common human disturbances on the island, artisanal fisheries coming close to shore and inland disturbance from tourists and researchers. The distance sea lions fled from each of these disturbances was measured to quantify human disturbance on the wildlife. Animals usually fled between 5-15m. Sea lion behaviors were observed and recorded in response to each of the disturbances, “tourist” “researcher” and “fisheries”. The behaviors suggest that adult sea lions are not significantly effected by human disturbance because they do not have any terrestrial predators and likely don’t see humans as much of a threat. There were inconsistencies with juveniles, young females, and pups. These groups show an immediate behavioral response to human disturbance like territorial, aggressive, active (compared to inactivity), and maternal behaviors.

With this information sea lion tourism can be a great ecotourism venture in the Gulf of California. Many are familiar with sea lions on docks all along the California coast, but seeing an animal in its natural habitat is far more exhilarating. This ecotourism venture could easily be made possible by involving the local communities around Granito, Mejia, and Angel la Guarda. Many local people are employed by fisheries, resorts, or cater to tourists. Creating a new tourism venture to view sea lions in their natural habitat in a manner that is sustainable, and benefitting both the community and the animals has a great appeal to the eco-minded tourist. Applying a UNESCO idea, creating biosphere reserves on the island would allow the animals to have the most protection possible, creating zones to allow development and tourists, and zones just for natural habitat and research.

Addressing sustainability, transportation to the islands should be in a sail boat to eliminate the need for fossil fuels which are degrading our environment. The venture should aim to educate the community and the tourists, and unite them through local custom. Travel is all about absorbing experiences and new cultures, so incorporating viewing a majestic animal in its natural habitat, sustainably, with local culture and tradition mixed together seems to me, to be a recipe for success!

The influence of human disturbance on California sea lions during the breeding season. By K. Holcomb; J.K. Young; L.R. Gerber. Animal Conservation, March 2009, 592-598, 7p.

Ella Bendrick-Chartier

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