Eco Tourism’s Impact on the Rainforest of Peru
A popular and growing industry throughout South America, thousands of visitors flock to far flung parts of the continent to get a glimpse of the Amazon rainforest as part of the eco-tourism industry.
In many cases, this industry has positive influences, including increased employment, improved economic actvitiy and a deep respect for the natural environment and its beauty.
But this increase in visitors and activity in places has also given rise to negative effects, such as noise pollution (due to tourist boats) or accidental disturbance of habits by wearing bright colors or taking flash photography. Our volunteer research project in the Manu Bioreserve in Peru is documenting some of this activity and it’s effect on biodiversity.
Macaw Monitoring by Volunteers
Monitoring bird activity is a major component of the volunteer project in Peru. Birds are abundant in this part of the rainforest, and tracking their behaviors is a great way to monitor their activity, habitat and lifestyles. Macaws are a common bird our volunteers encounter during a stay in the Manu Bioreserve. Ecologically speaking, macaws are part of a delicate system and even slight disturbances can make a much larger impact than initially thought.
An ongoing research project, our volunteers and staff are analyzing years of observational data to help us understand changes in the macaw population over the last 10 years. Macaws’ bright colors make them easy to spot, but it also makes them a highly desired commodity and pet to many people around the world.
Among the main threats to the general macaw population in this region are habitat loss due to deforestation, exploitation in the pet trade, and human disturbance – which is why the project also monitors tourist activity in the area.
Using Data to Help Improve the Eco Tourism Industry
Our initial findings seem to indicate there is a correlation between human activity and macaw population decline, but there is still a lot of research to be done to truly understand the cause and effect relationship. Even if we do see a correlation between the macaw decline and the rise in tourism, we don’t want to alarm the industry. This could seriously hurt people’s livelihoods who are dependent on this income.
But there are cooperative means to help the birds while also keep the ecotourism industry stable. One of the program directors Maria states: “If we can get the word out there that the blue-‐headed macaw is suffering from human disturbance for whatever reason, we can use this data as an umbrella species to help conserve the area for both the blue‐headed macaw and other species of similar bird”.
Using data collected by years of volunteers, one of the goals of the project is to be able to develop a plan to educate national park visitors about the potential impact of tourism on the macaw population in the region and, consequently, encourage conscientious behavior to tour agencies operating bird watching tours in the region.
Greenheart Travel’s Involvement
At Greenheart Travel, we do our best to ensure our projects leave as little impact as possible on the host culture or environment. We are committed to practicing the safest and most sustainable volunteer projects possible.
On our volunteer project in Peru, volunteers participate in a form of eco-tourism, volunteering abroad; however, the research volunteers collect while on program actively works to understand the biodiversity process and monitor the effect of human activity as a way to mitigate the potentially harmful effects of tourism in the national park. We believe this is an important step to bridging the relationship between nature and industry.