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Andrew Bovarnick, Biodiversity Economist & Manager, Freshwater, Coastal and Marine, Global Environment Facility, United Nations Development Programme
An economic perspective on the threats to and underlying causes of biodiversity loss is key not only to understanding why loss is occurring but also to identifying possible solutions. This presentation provides an overview of key economic drivers threatening biodiversity in Southeast Asia, and is based on UNDP experience in the design and implementation of large scale biodiversity conservation and sustainable use projects, which are financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

The presentation will discuss key economic issues influencing the management of natural resources and their consequences for ecosystems and biodiversity. It will specifically review two common underlying problems that threaten protected areas that our UNDP-GEF projects support, and that we try to address, in part, through ecotourism. These are (i) limited financing for protected areas management and (ii) limited economic opportunities for communities living in and around protected areas to generate income, which often results in unsustainable extraction of resources. The presentation then provides an economic rationale for ecotourism, explaining how tourism can provide economic benefits for protected areas and local communities, and ends by briefly highlighting some limitations to ecotourism as an economic tool for conservation.

Dachanee Emphandhu,Assistant Professor, Department of Conservation, Faculty of Forestry, Kasetsart University (Thailand)
This presentation discusses challenges and opportunities of nature-based tourism in the Thailand Western Forest Complex (WEFCOM), the largest forest complex in Thailand. In particular, tourism resource potential and the sharing of benefits to local communities living within or nearby the protected areas are reviewed. The challenges of several issues are also discussed, such as involving all relevant stakeholders in the development of sound management plans, conserving the environment, and maintaining the quality of the visitor experience.

Shant Raj Jnawali, Project Director, Bardia Conservation Program, King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation (Nepal)
The Himalayan kingdom of Nepal is one of the most popular tourist destinations in south Asia. Nepal’s spectacular range of snowcapped high mountains, vivacious socio-cultural composite, and protected area networks that harbor a wide range of globally significant ecosystems are the major attraction for the visitors.

The protected areas spread across different ecological regimes, and cover nearly 20 percent of the country’s landmass to provide safe refuge for globally threatened wildlife species ranging from snow leopard in the northern temperate climate to Royal Bengal tiger, elephant, and rhinoceros in the relatively narrow sub-tropical lowlands and nearby foothills in the south. About one third of the visitors coming to Nepal visit the protected areas, contributing over ninety percent of the total revenue. Of the total revenue generated by the protected areas from ecotourism, fifty percent is returned to improve the livelihood of the local communities and to safeguard the ecological integrity of the buffer zone forest resources.

Restoration and management of degraded forest areas, particularly in and around the buffer zone of the lowland protected areas, through community stewardship has greatly enhanced the forest resource base, and has created an additional refuge for tigers and their prey base and other co-existing mega herbivores including rhinoceros and elephants. Bagmara community forest, at the northeastern vicinity of Royal Chitwan National Park, is a role model, where natural resource management and ecotourism have blended together. The income accruing from this community-managed enterprise is utilized for local development and alternative livelihood activities. Similar success stories are evident from other parts of the mid and western lowland of Nepal.

The sharing of the park and reserve revenues has greatly contributed to the well being of the buffer zone communities, and has also made them more proactive towards conservation of endangered tigers and other co-existing species.

Arlyne Johnson, Program Co-Director and Associate Conservation Scientist, Wildlife Conservation Society, Lao
Ecotourism has been applied as a strategy to reduce over harvesting of wildlife, but assumes that those who benefit from ecotourism will then sustainably use the resources upon which the tourism depends. To help managers evaluate the association between ecotourism benefits and wildlife use, feasible but effective monitoring systems are essential. This talk describes monitoring and adaptive management methods being used in two protected areas with tourism strategies in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Lao PDR. Preliminary results from PNG indicate that ecotourism alone has not been sufficient to reduce unsustainable wildlife use. In Lao PDR, a number of indicators of wildlife abundance and use are monitored in villages that receive varying tourism benefits. We contrast conditions between the two sites and the potential of ecotourism to serve as an incentive for sustainable wildlife use.

Margaret Kinnaird, Conservation Ecologist, Wildlife Conservation Society – Indonesia
Indonesia, like many developing countries, is turning to ecotourism to integrate the goals of development and nature conservation. A critical part of developing ecotourism programs is evaluating the impacts of tourist activities and monitoring the effectiveness of tourism in conserving nature and improving local livelihoods. In the mid-90s, I evaluated ecotourism in the Tangkoko DuaSudara Nature Reserve, North Sulawesi by examining trends in visitor numbers, the tourist experience, distribution of tourist revenues, and tourist impact on endemic primates. Data showed that tourism was expanding rapidly but local benefits were not being fully realized, the reserve did not generate enough money to implement management, and primate behavior was being affected. Recommendations derived from the research included the need for a change in legal status of the reserve, strategies for minimizing impacts on wildlife, increasing income to the reserve, and improving distribution of those resources. Ten years later, few recommendations have been implemented and the situation for the reserve, its wildlife, and the local communities appears worse than during the mid-90s. Tourist arrivals have become highly unpredictable following political, social and financial crises in Indonesia. The few economic benefits realized by the local communities are now volatile and undependable. This study underscores the need for scientifically based evaluations of ecotourism, but also highlights the limitation of even the best designed plans in the face of inadequate implementation, poor governance, and political and social chaos.

Fergus Tyler Maclaren, Director of International Programs, The International Ecotourism Society
This presentation provides a background to the regional meeting which took place from November 2001 to April 2002 during the International Year of Ecotourism (IYE), the conclusions drawn from the World Ecotourism Summit, and the major issues that developed during the year, providing the basis for future action. Particular emphasis will be made on the issues raised at the Southeast Asia Regional meeting held in Chiang Mai, Thailand in March 2002, and the resulting major effort coming out of the IYE: the development of a global accreditation body to support existing certification schemes around the world that are currently providing the operational framework for eco- and sustainable tourism development.

Nay Htun, Professor and Executive Director, University for Peace
This presentation reviews the evolving concepts, principles, and practices of sustainability in the context of the cultural and biological diversity of Southeast Asia. Parameters of sustainability have expanded significantly beyond economic viability to include ecological, social, and ethical aspects. The five contiguous Southeast Asia countries: Cambodia, Lao, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam possess substantial biological and cultural wealth—richness underscored by diversity. Harmony between human beings and nature is widely aspired to by the people.

Tourism, drawing upon natural and cultural richness, has the potential to generate significant revenues, particularly foreign exchange earnings. Tourism is also a very powerful mechanism for improving and increasing understanding between and among countries. This has important implications for bilateral and multilateral relations. There is now increasing interest in ecotourism. To sustain it, it is imperative to take into account the ecological carrying capacity, social norms and cultural traditions, and religious beliefs and practices.

If not, tourism and ecotourism cannot be sustained. Overexploitation of ecological beauty and richness, disregarding and trivializing rich and unique cultures, insensitivity to the social traditions and norms, and ignorance of the religious beliefs and practices of the countries and people, will result in the same fate of the proverbial goose that laid the golden egg. Sustainable ecotourism can help to promote peace with nature, peace with neighbors, and peace with ourselves. Should it not be an imperative, when it will also be economically rewarding?

Neou Bonheur, Deputy Director, Ministry of Environment (Cambodia)
The Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia is the most productive wetland in Asia, providing a resource base for the country’s economy and rural livelihoods. But these rich resources are under growing human pressure driven by rapid change of social, natural, economic and political dimensions. In 1997 the government designated the Tonle Sap Lake as a Biosphere Reserve, which paves the way for biodiversity conservation as an integral part of the management regime. The Prek Toal Core Area is the most important biodiversity hotspot of the Lake, where a large number of wildlife species of global significance are found. Because of its global value and unique cultural landscape, ecotourism is considered an environmentally sound economic opportunity. Conservation and ecotourism still face some constraints and risks associated with limited knowledge, ineffective policy, lack of participation from key social groups, socio-economic needs and limited human capacity. Harmonization of biodiversity conservation and ecotourism development with old social values and practices represents a challenging task.

Phimkeo Thamlasine, Chief, Nam Ha National Protected Area (Lao)
The Nam Ha National Protected Area in the northern highlands of Lao PDR is the third largest protected area (2,200 km2) in the country. It is the first in the country to establish a viable ecotourism operation, offering trekking and rafting opportunities inside of the protected area. Within the national system, Nam Ha is considered important for its representation of the flora and fauna of the northern geographical subdivision of the country. Over 100 ethnic minority villages border the protected area, and depend on the forest for harvest of non-timber forest products to varying degrees. This talk describes the protected area, the challenges it faces, and the impact that ecotourism has had on biodiversity conservation in the area.

Albert Teo, Managing Director, Borneo Eco Tours (Malaysia)
This paper examines the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary on the Lower Kinabatangan River: its history, future potential, and opportunities and threats to biodiversity. Specifically, it identifies some of the problems facing the local community, such as high poverty rates, and discusses local economic activities.

The Sukau Rainforest Lodge in Sabah, Malaysia, was set up in 1995 by multi-ecotourism award winners Borneo Eco Tours to complement its tours to the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary on the Lower Kinabatangan River. The paper will outline the siting and location of the lodge; its operations (including green policies and a code of practice that minimizes the impact on biodiversity); manpower development program; community and environmental projects and community participation; various ways of fundraising for each project; and challenges and successes of each project.

The paper concludes with the setting up of the Sukau Ecotourism Research & Development Centre (SERDC). This strategic alliance with other area stakeholders (including World Wildlife Fund, Partners for Wetlands, local community groups and universities) was created to act as a catalyst for the adoption of a code of practice for lodges and tour operators; as a tool to develop and build capacity of local community; and to deal with problems encountered and to propose future strategic direction.

Robert Tizard, Fermata inc.
The countries of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam bridge the gap between the Himalayas and the South China Sea and its associated islands. This landmass is criss-crossed by three major river basins, each divided from the other by high forested mountains. This intricate topography has contributed to the evolution of a diverse array of habitats ranging from dry deciduous savannahs to moist coniferous montane forests. As should be expected, an even wider variety of creatures can be found within these habitats. These include many charismatic species including the tiger, Asian elephant and Green Peafowl; the habitats also serve as a center for diversity within groups such as gibbons, wild cattle, hornbills, and pitas.

In the past decade the most remote and least known corners of the region have begun to share their secrets with the outside world. This has resulted in numerous descriptions of new taxa to the scientific community, including several large mammals and birds alongside dozens of small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. The region’s faunal diversity—with many species not found elsewhere on the planet—deserves global conservation attention. In addition, the region is a source of more widespread species that have dwindling populations in neighboring regions.

Tran Van Mui, Director, Cat Tien National Park
This case study begins by describing the substantial biodiversity value of Cat Tien National Park in Vietnam. An overview of threats to the park’s ecosystems shows that tourism developments are a reason for conservation concern. Increasing numbers of visitors are expected in the coming years, and attention is being paid to their potential impact on the park’s natural environment. Those observations—together with a number of weaknesses in tourism management—lead to the argument that without changes in approach, tourism will become one of the more important threats to the park. Another issue is that local communities hardly benefit from tourism to the park. A discussion is presented on what steps are required to improve the situation so that biodiversity values can be maintained, visitors are able to enjoy the park’s nature and learn about the need for conservation, while local communities can gain a share in the benefits that visitors bring. The park management has been fortunate to have a number of opportunities to learn from the experiences of other protected areas, including planning and management of sustainable tourism. It is hoped that lessons learned will be used by park authorities and will lead to implementation of sustainable nature-based tourism as part of conservation action in Cat Tien National Park.

Jalsa Urubshurow, Founder, Nomadic Expeditions (Mongolia)
The Three Camel Lodge is a premiere luxury expedition camp built by Nomadic Expeditions in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, using environmentally and culturally sustainable development guidelines. Exploring the link between nature-based (eco) tourism and biodiversity conservation in Mongolia, this presentation will give an overview of the design, planning, construction, and community relationships involved in creating the Three Camel Lodge. The structure of the organization and its commitment to biodiversity conservation will be described, and the role that science played in the decision-making, design, and operations for the Lodge will be highlighted.

The design and development of the Three Camel Lodge was guided by an emphasis on local community values and ecological sustainability. Nomadic Expeditions built the lodge to complement its natural surroundings and to utilize renewable energy sources, taking advantage of both solar and wind power.

While planning and building the lodge, Nomadic Expeditions initiated a cooperative agreement—the first of its kind—with local government and National Park authorities, a reflection of their commitment to sustainable development and conservation of nature. Hunting has been prohibited within a 12-mile radius and the Three Camel Lodge will serve as a base for scientific research and wildlife monitoring.

Working with the local community, the Three Camel Lodge funds and organizes nature conservation clubs for children in local secondary schools. Activities for the children include collecting litter, cleaning and protecting mountain springs, planting native trees and bushes, and attending presentations by leading naturalists and scientists.

Tony Whitten, Senior Biodiversity Specialist, East Asia and Pacific, World Bank
Almost all the countries of mainland Southeast Asia and beyond are losing their natural forests at worrying rates. However, forest loss is simply the final stage along a path of insidious degradation and attrition. The wildlife within the forests have been heavily hunted and now many forests are eerily quiet. It tends to be only those people with persistence and good luck who are able to see the larger and more spectacular wildlife.

Spectacular landscapes remaining in the region draw and will continue to draw tourists. Many of these tourists do not, however, end up seeing much in the way of wildlife. Experience shows that sustained protection and time may allow wildlife populations to increase and diversify, and these areas then have the potential to become wonderful attractions for tourists.

At the World Bank, a new approach to stem the loss of biodiversity is being adopted at a small but growing scale: working with faith groups across East Asia. We have been working with Buddhist communities in Thailand, Cambodia and Mongolia, and will soon extend this work to Lao PDR and, in a small way, to Vietnam. In Mongolia, for example, we are exploring the potential for eco-spiritual tourism on a much-pressured sacred mountain.

Erin Willigan, Columbia University
Tourism is a large and growing global market, expanding along with people’s appetite for cultural, historic, and nature-oriented experiences. According to the World Tourism Organization, the global tourism market totaled 698.8 million international tourists and $475.8 billion in 2000. Tourism growth in Mainland Southeast Asian has been particularly strong, with growth in international tourist arrivals from 1995-2000 surpassing that of both the Asian region and the world market. In 2000, international tourists to Mainland Southeast Asia reached 12.9 million.

With the combination of strong tourism growth, rich and unique biodiversity, and an established network of protected areas, Mainland Southeast Asia has the potential to develop a sustainable industry in nature-based tourism. Tourism to the region from “Ecotourism Origin Countries” (United States, UK, Germany, Canada, France, Australia, Netherlands, Sweden, Austria, New Zealand, Norway, and Denmark) is already established, and increasing with growth exceeding the regional average.

Domestic tourism is also significant in Mainland Southeast Asia. Domestic tourism in Thailand and Vietnam (45.9 million tourists) exceeded total international visitors to the entire Mainland Southeast Asian region in 2000. Interest in nature-based recreation among domestic tourists is evidenced by growth in visitation to National Parks in both countries.

Win Aung, Chairman, Woodland Travels Co., Ltd. (Myanmar)
Myanmar, one of the largest nations in Southeast Asia, is well known for its rich biodiversity. Because of its abundant fauna and flora and beautiful nature settings, pressure is mounting to open it up for domestic and international tourists to appreciate. To develop an eco-resort in a fragile destination like Popa Mountain Park, which is surrounded by lovely hill and forest scenery, great care must be taken to retain the pristine state of the forest and preserve the ecological integrity of the area. Management has to benefit socio-economics and the environment, and achieve sustainability without losing local culture identity and nature values.

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