Wildlife abundance and diversity as indicators of tourism potential in Northern Botswana
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Wildlife tourism can provide economic incentives for conservation. Due to the abundance of wildlife and the presence of charismatic species some areas are better suited to wildlife tourism. Our first objective was to develop criteria based on wildlife abundance and diversity to evaluate tourism potential in the Northern Conservation Zone of Botswana. Secondly we wanted to quantify and compare tourism experiences in areas with high and low tourism potential. We used aerial survey data to estimate wildlife biomass and diversity to determine tourism potential, while data from ground surveys quantified the tourist experience. Areas used for High Paying Low Volume tourism had significantly higher mean wildlife biomass and wildlife diversity than the areas avoided for this type of tourism. Only 22% of the Northern Conservation Zone has intermediate to high tourism potential. The areas with high tourism potential, as determined from the aerial survey data, provided tourists with significantly better wildlife sightings (ground surveys) than the low tourism potential areas. Even Low Paying tourism may not be economically viable in concessions that lack areas with intermediate to high tourism potential. The largest part of the Northern Conservation Zone has low tourism potential, but low tourism potential is not equal to low conservation value. Alternative conservation strategies should be developed to complement the economic incentive provided by wildlife-based tourism in Botswana.
- RESEARCH: Somers M