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Leatherback turtle

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Comparing the leatherback turtle and other species.

In “Ecotourism positively affects awareness and attitudes but not conservation behaviours: a case study at Grande Riviere, Trinidad”, Waylen et al. (2009) attempt to prove that raising awareness and improving attitude towards turtle conservation created by ecotourism does not lead to the change in conservation behaviours. However, this conclusion might be misleading because it may result from two inadequate comparisons.

Firstly, to understand the level of awareness about the species, a comparison was made between leatherback turtles and Trinidad Piping-guans. The prerequisite for this comparison can be that the only difference between these species is whether ecotourism has been facilitated or not, so that, the different knowledge level of species can imply the effect of ecotourism. However, this prerequisite may miss two underlying differences between leatherback turtles and Trinidad Piping-guans. First, the conservation network for turtles, which become the base of community-based ecotourism operation now, was established in 1992 in Grande Riviere (Harrison 2007). Since conservation project can improve local people's knowledge about focal species (Dietz et al. 1994), the existed conservation project may contribute to establishing knowledge about the leatherback turtle. Secondly, leatherback turtles have been hunted for their meat by residents while Trinidad Piping-guans have not been favourable prey (Waylen et al. 2009). If hunters tend to have more knowledge about their prey, as Waylen et al. (2009) discuss in own paper, it can be assumed that local people know about leatherback turtles as their prey more than about Trinidad Piping-guans which is non-target species. Therefore, even though people shows the different knowledge level between these two species, it might be an error to conclude that the difference is result from community-based ecotourism operation for the turtles.

 Secondly, to recognize the change in conservation behaviour through positive attitude towards ecotourism, hunting behaviours of local people were examined. That is comparing between people's attitude towards turtles and people's behaviour towards any potential target species for hunting. However, it must be noted that single-species conservation project can often improve behaviour towards only target species (Entwistle 2000). In this case, positive attitude towards leatherback turtles in Grande Riviere may lead to conservation behaviour only for the turtle. From this point of view, Harrison (2007) finds that people have protected the leatherback turtle with the development of tourism in the village even though they used to hunt the species for meat. Therefore, it could be argued that conservation behaviour can be seen in the decline in the number of hunting turtles.

Comparing leatherback turtles and Trinidad Piping-guans may not be an adequate method to understand the effect of ecotourism on awareness, since these species have different relationship with local people. It can not be denied that the differentiation of knowledge about these species may be derived from the different relationship, so that it may be difficult to conclude that ecotourism is the factor of the improvement of awareness by comparing leatherback turtles and Trinidad Piping-guans. In addition, taking considering of hunting behaviours towards all species in the area may also not sufficient to recognize the change in conservation behaviours created by single-species conservation. Since the improvement of conservation behaviour for the target species is demonstrated by the decrease of the number of turtle hunting by local people, it might be an inappropriate to conclude that rising awareness through turtle ecotourism does not lead to the change in conservation behaviour. In conclusion, because of two inadequate comparisons, two main results for the conclusion in the paper, (1) ecotourism can affects on awareness of species and (2) rising awareness does not necessary mean the change in behaviour, might not be a valid argument.

Literature Cited

Dietz, J.M., L.A. Dietz, and E.Y. Nagagata. 1994. The effective use of flagship species for conservation of biodiversity: the example of lion tamarins in Brazil. Pages 32-49 in P.J.S. Olney, G.M. Mace and A.T.C. Feistner, editors. Creative Conservation: Interactive Management of Wild and Captive Animals. Chapman and Hall, London.

Entwistle, A.C. 2000. Flagships for future? Oryx 34: 239-240.

Harrison, D. 2007. Cocoa, conservation and tourism Grande Riviere, Trinidad. Annuals of Tourism Research 34: 919-942.

Waylen, K.A., P.J.K. McGowan, Pawi Study Group and E.J. Milner-Gulland. 2009. Ecotourism positively affects awareness and attitudes but not conservation behaviours: a case study at Grande Riviere, Trinidad. Oryx 43: 343-351.


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