Ecotourism and biodiversity conservation

That ecotourism is inextricably linked to biodiversity and the struggle to secure its long-term survival, follows straightforwardly out of the sheer enjoyment that discerning ecotourists draw from visiting untouched natural environments and getting up-close and personal there with charismatic flag-ship species, in the knowledge that their visit actively helps safeguarding all upon which their eyes feast. At Ekonexion we strongly believe that the key to the long-term spiritual and economical well-being of indigenous peoples lies precisely in the active preservation of their ancestral lands that set the stage for our ecotourism activities. Ultimately, the long-term viability of our tourism products depends on this, and hence we always strive to make the magnitude of our financial contributions and support to indigenous communities dependent on local conservation attitudes and the degree of protection afforded to local wildlife and their habitats through wise land tenure.

Over the past twelve years, we have been experimenting with various types of ecotourism agreements in order to formally regulate mutual commitments, rights, resposibilities, and obligations between us and the indigenous communities with whom we work. At one end of the spectrum, we pay a daily 'respectful usage' fee per visiting tourist to customary landowners or land-holding groups as a mere token of our gratitude to trespass tribal land without restricting traditional usage or imposing management actions. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we engage into direct structured payments (annual or bi-annual) to customary landowners or land-holding groups in return for carefully defined and monitored conservation outcomes, whereby any restrictions on traditional usage are appropriately compensated. The latter types of agreements are inspired on the concept of Payment for Ecological Services (PES), whereby a voluntary, contingent transaction is made between buyers and providers of a well-defined environmental service or a land-use likely to produce that service. In between the opposite ends of the spectrum then, there can be complex variations in agreements, but most importantly, all our activities on ancestral lands controlled by indigenous communities are formally being regulated through a Memory of Understanding or more legally binding agreement. Such agreements imply a varying degree of coordinated micro-management based on the outcome of a prolonged deliberation process with customary landowners, village elders and authorities, as well as broad segments of the community. These agreements are further subject to annual or bi-annual review and are thus being perfected over the course of years, providing the best possible basis for continuous visitation. Thus, by linking up the financial benefits of ecotourism with the continuous presence and protection of local wildlife through wise land tenure, we instigate and nurture pride in customary landownership and bring a strong conservation message.

Related links

Browse the Papua Expeditions web site.

Read on about our Community Conservation and Ecotourism Agreement for the Orobiai River catchment on Waigeo Island (from www.PapuaExpeditions.com).

Read on about the natural wonders of New Guinea (from www.PapuaExpeditions.com).

Read on about the geopolitical and biogeographical delimitation of West Papua (from www.PapuaExpeditions.com).

Read on about the indigenous peoples of West Papua (from www.PapuaExpeditions.com).

Read on about the flora and fauna of West Papua (from www.PapuaExpeditions.com).

Read on about the birdlife of West Papua (from www.PapuaExpeditions.com).

New Guinea is a fantastic island, unique and fascinating. It is an area of incredible varieties of geomorphology, biota, peoples, languages, history, traditions and cultures. Diversity is its prime characteristic whatever the subject of interest. To a biogeographer it is tantalizing, as well as confusing or frustrating when trying to determine the history of its biota. To an ecologist, and to all biologists, it is a happy hunting ground of endless surprises, and unanswered questions. To a conservationist it is like a dream come true, a 'flash-back' of a few centuries, as well as a challenge for the future. (J. L. Gressitt, 1982)

Visionary conservationists

On Waigeo Island in the fabled Raja Ampat archipelago off New Guinea's western tip, Ekonexion entered into an ambitious and innovative agreement with customary landowners in a bid to preserve for future generations, the entire Orobiai River catchment there: 92 km² of virtually untouched primary forest, set in visually stunning topography, and teeming with spectacular yet globally threatened wildlife. Our Community Conservation and Ecotourism Agreement (CCEA) seals direct structured payments by Ekonexion to customary landholding groups on Waigeo in return for carefully defined conservation and education outcomes. We act on the convincingness of the added value of at least attempting to make conservation efforts more market-driven.

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