by Robert H. Horwich and Jonathan Lyon
Ecotourism has been touted as a viable new strategy for nature conservation and sustainable local development, and developing nations have been encouraged to embrace this fast-growing industry (Ceballos-Lascurain 1991). However, there often is a gap between the promise and the reality of ecotourism development. Ecotourism can have negative consequences for local people and the environment, including overvisitation and damage to natural resources (de Groot 1983; Alderman 1990), local inflation, and exacerbation of a cultural and economic gap between local people and affluent travelers. These negative consequences can lead to local opposition to many ecotourism activities (Johnston 1990). Despite these drawbacks, effective ecotourism remains as a viable tool that can interest and motivate rural people to protect the wildlands where they work and live. Given attainable economic incentives, true local involvement in the management of lands, and a proper framework, many rural people have shown that they will take responsibility to protect their lands (Western et al. 1994). In this chapter, we report on two conservation efforts that have produced positive results by employing community-based development as a conservation tool: the Community Baboon Sanctuary and the Gales Point Manatee Project.
The Community Baboon Sanctuary (CBS) represents a pioneering experiment in community-based conservation for the protection of black howler monkey (Alouatta pigra) habitat on private lands. The Gales Point Manatee Project (GPMP) reflects an attempt to expand and improve on the CBS experiment. The goals of the GPMP were to create a protected area much larger than the CBS that included both private and public lands but remained locally managed. Belize’s history of ecotourism activities shaped these projects, but the projects themselves have also influenced subsequent developments in the ecotourism industry. As the success of these projects demonstrates, ecotourism projects can function as interim protection for wild areas that would otherwise be utilized for more destructive industries. Regarding these experimental projects or any potentially damaging technique for conservation, we believe that a simple question needs to be asked: Is the proposed solution potentially better than the environmental degradation likely to result from continuing trends? Examination of the specific successes and challenges in the implementation of the two projects helps to address the gap that is often found between the promise of rural ecotourism and the reality of its day-today operation.
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Keywords: natural reserves, forestry, Maya forest, development, resources
Suggested APA Reference: Horwich, R. H., & Lyon, J. (1998). Community-based development as a conservation tool: the Community Baboon Sanctuary and the Gales Point Manatee Project. Timber, Tourists, and Temples: Conservation and Development in the Maya Forest of Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico (eds RB Primack, D. Bray, HA Galetti & I. Ponciano), 343-363.