The ecological sustainability of ecotourism in Manu Reserved Zone, Peru
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AbstractThis Master's Degree Project analyzes for the period 1995-1998 the ecological sustainability of ecotourism in Manu Reserved Zone (MRZ), a protected area of the southeastern Amazonia rainforest of Peru. MRZ is part of a biosphere reserve that also includes a national park and a multiple use zone. The study focuses on the lowland rainforest area of Salvador, the most popular destination for tourism in MR Z and in the entire biosphere reserve. Tourism activity in MRZ, which was initiated in 1980, has increased almost constantly since 1994, with an average of 1510 tourists yearly for the period 1995-1997. The busiest tourist period of the year is July-September, which corresponds in part to the dry season (May-October). Tourism in MRZ takes place in a relatively undisturbed tropical environment that holds one of the world's highest levels of biodiversity. MBR harbors 190 species of mammals (ranked third in the world), including 13 species of monkeys (world record), approximately 1000 species of birds (world record), 147 species of amphibians and reptiles and among the invertebrates 1300 species of butterflies (one of the world's richest areas). In addition, 2,874 botanic species have been identified. The lowland rainforest is the dominant type of vegetation in MBR and the most diverse in plants and wildlife species. Among the latter, seven species are endangered, including the giant otter, a top predator of most concern in this study. Manu is also home to native communities, the Machiguenga group being the most numerous. Non-native communities also can be found in the higher lands of the biosphere reserve and in its surrounding lands. The analysis of sustainability was done using indicators of ecological impact for Salvador. Data on these indicators were obtained using several research techniques including field observations, survey research, interviews, literature review and others. A total of 16 indicators were studied for the following resources: wildlife, soil, vegetation, and water. The analysis has shown that tourism in Salvador did impact negatively the environment (seven indicators) and that wildlife, vegetation and soil were definitely affected. The analysis failed to demonstrate any negative impact on water. With regard to wildlife, tourism impacted negatively the giant otter. This impact was considered very severe, all the more since the giant otter is an important keystone species (e.g., one of the largest predators of Manu and an endangered species). Damage to vegetation and soil compaction were the most severe type of impact on soil and vegetation. Impacting activities for soil and vegetation were walking and camping, and for the giant otter the use of the catamaran on the lake. The tourists, the personnel of Manu tour companies, the people who worked for Ecotur Manu, and the wardens directly caused the impacts. Indirectly, the people who make the decisions on tourism in Manu also contributed to the impact and are the main ones responsible. The study of significance of the impacts shows that only the impact on the giant otter should be considered significant. However, tourism is more sustainable than any other activities taking place inside and outside MRZ. It seems to be the type of use of wildlife and land that can be the most compatible with conservation. The sustainability of tourism in Manu can be improved if the recommendations made are followed, and in particular those that relate to information and education (e.g., of the guides, other tourist personnel, and the wardens). It is also recommended that the catamaran be eliminated from the lakes and that more sustainable alternatives to watch the otters, such as observation towers, be adopted. A holistic approach where there is a balance between protecting the environment and other interests (i.e., the tourists) is necessary. Once in the hands of all tourism players, the recommendations still depend on political will for implementation.
NotesAbstract available in both English and Spanish.
Figures 12, 65, 347 and 367 - 370b included as separate PDF file.