In November of 2016, one of the world’s most critical and important places for unique and threatened wildlife received the largest critical habitat designation[1] in the Philippines. The newly declared Cleopatra’s Needle Habitat protects more than 100,000 acres of forest on the lush island of Palawan, home to a long list of endangered species that live nowhere else in the world. [2]

Conserving this irreplaceable critical habitat now relies on careful management and strategic patrol—and on bringing international tourists in to experience Mother Nature’s beauty firsthand.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), tourism is one of the largest global industries.[3] It constitutes nine percent of the global GDP, results in $1.5 trillion in exports and represents the main income sources for many developing countries.[4] All around the world, conservationists are leveraging this powerhouse of an industry as a positive force for protecting endangered wildlife species and their habitats.

“For many local communities, ecotourism provides viable revenue and jobs that can effectively replace industry that destroys the environment,” says Wes Sechrest, chief scientist and CEO of Global Wildlife Conservation. “Money that comes in from ecotourism—revenue that likely would not have been available otherwise—can also help support vital species and habitat conservation projects in the area.”

In Palawan, the Centre for Sustainability has already started training eco-tourism guides to move individuals away from livelihoods that involve resource extraction, forest destruction and wildlife poaching. In addition, the last 200-300 members of the Batak tribe of hunter-gatherers will be able to build a sustainable livelihood through ecotourism, engaging them as the best protectors of wildlife and these wild places.[5] “Sustainable tourism is also key to connecting outsiders to nature, making them more likely to want to protect it, too,” says Jessa Garibay, project manager for the Centre for Sustainability.

“From planning meetings with community stakeholders, we see a big potential for bird watching, caving/spelunking, trekking and hiking that provides a good preview of what to expect in the forests of Cleopatra’s Needle,” Garibay says. “Ecotourism in Cleopatra’s Needle will raise awareness about the value of the unique flora and fauna in the area. They may be able to appreciate its beauty on a computer screen, but seeing it firsthand enables travelers to make their own connection to nature and the people who depend on it.”

When travelers are making plans, it’s important to research ahead of time to ensure that infrastructure is sustainable and follows green standards, and that outings directly support wildlife and habitat conservation, in addition to benefiting local communities.

For tips on how to find opportunities, hotels and operators that are environmentally friendly, check out The Nature Conservancy’s “10 Questions to Ask a Hotel[6],” the Green Hotels Association website[7] and the International Ecotourism Society website.[8] You can also check out Rainforest Alliance Certified[9] hotels and operators.

*The views and expressed opinions in this article are those by Global Wildlife Conservation, and are not necessarily those of TripAdvisor, Inc.  Any cited research is sourced by Global Wildlife Conservation and has not been necessarily verified or independently evaluated by TripAdvisor, Inc.    

Resources

[1] https://news.mongabay.com/2017/02/the-philippines-declares-more-than-100000-acres-as-critical-habitat/

[2] http://www.centreforsustainability.org/about.php

[3] http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=49276#.WMDDlhASt24

[4] http://www2.unwto.org/content/why-tourism

[5] https://news.mongabay.com/2017/02/the-philippines-declares-more-than-100000-acres-as-critical-habitat/

[6] http://www.nature.org/greenliving/greenshopping/travel/ten-green-questions-for-your-hotel.xml

[7] http://greenhotels.com/index.php

[8] http://www.ecotourism.org

[8] http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/green-vacations

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