More than ever before, in today’s world conservation issues are discussed by ordinary citizens and feature prominently in the public consciousness. Multiple crises in the form of the loss of the world’s rainforests, the decline of endangered species, climate change and soil depletion have served to raise awareness and increase support for conservation initiatives.
Hand-in-hand with this growing concern for the world we live in and the planet we are bequeathing to our children, in the past twenty years we have seen a rapid growth in ecotourism and nature-oriented travel. Despite valid concerns surrounding the carbon footprint produced by international air travel, more and more people are choosing to venture into the planet’s remotest and wildest corners, in search of a sense of contact with the natural world that they have lost in their own urban environments.
Whilst international travelers should certainly be concerned by the impact of intercontinental travel upon our planet, they should also take inspiration from the fact that this relatively new trend for exploring faraway places -rather than opting to lie on a beach somewhere for two weeks each year- is reaping tangible benefits in terms of nature conservation.
With the growth of the ecotourism industry, we have seen an exponential growth in the number and size of protected natural areas throughout the world, particularly in developing countries, where –if it is properly managed- a positive impact on the environment through nature tourism can also lead to positive impacts upon local and national economies, in the form of increased infrastructure development and the inflow of foreign reserves.
In the early 1960s, there were one thousand protected natural areas, scattered throughout the world and covering 3% of the Earth’s land surface. Today, there are more than one hundred thousand conservation areas, protecting more than 11% of the planet’s land surface, or around 19 million square kilometers. In a world where we are bombarded daily by news of environmental devastation, these are figures which should be celebrated.
However, there is of course a downside to this extraordinary progress in the field of environmental conservation, with protected natural areas coming under increasing pressure on a number of fronts from those seeking ways to get around existing conservation laws, or openly flouting such laws. If we are to ensure that green initiatives will continue to conserve our blue planet for future generations, we will have to remain vigilant. And at Tambopata Ecolodge we believe that learning about and delighting in nature through the ecotourism experience is the best way of spreading the conservation message across all boundaries and to all nations.