Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Biodiversity and tourism

I made comments on my proposed schedule yesterday for the team in Bangladesh. A GIS/GPS specialist will be traveling with me as we are going into areas where there is no tourism at all presently. As we travel into these forest reserves, we will be scoping out options for a wide variety of nature attractions and mapping the sites we feel have the most potential.

In this preparatory period, I am still doing my reading. I need to know what the scientists are saying about the biodiversity at the site, and then match that up with what can be of interest to travelers. It is highly important that I work with conservation scientists to understand what areas need to be left entirely alone. Preferably there will be a conservation zoning scheme already in place, but I have not heard that there is any zoning at my site.

As I learned yesterday, many of the reserves in Bangladesh are very new. Frequently, I am working in a situation where a variety of donors are involved, and I need to know precisely what each donor has done, and their plans for each site if at all possible. This can get extremely complicated at times. But, lately, as I have been working in countries with little tourism, and incipient conservation planning, I can make a greater impact and work directly with the other pioneers working on site. That is really fun.

I learned today that my area has a Coastal and Wetland Biodiversity management Project (CWBMP) managed by the United National Development Project - Global Environmental Fund, implemented by the Bangladesh Department of Environment. I have their print out with pictures in front of me. They are establishing an innovative system for management of ecologically critical areas in Bangladesh. They should be very interesting partners to meet and work with.

Their website explains that Bangladesh has both inland freshwater and tidal salt-water wetlands. The majority of the 120 million people living in Bangladesh are dependent on the country's wetland systems, through fishing and agriculture. My study area, the Teknaf Peninsula has one of the longest sandy beach ecosystems in the world (80 km) with 81 migratory birds species recorded, as well as 4 species of threatened sea turtles.

I also have St Martin's Island in my study area, which is apparently a unique coral-algal community with no parallel in the world. And I have Sonadia Island as well, which is a mangrove island which supports many waterbirds and sea turtles.

It will take a bit more time to investigate how well an average visitor will be able to appreciate any of these wondrous biological assets. Frequently, biologists - who are almost always there long before me - assume that biodiversity in and of itself is a tourism asset. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, this is not the case. My job is to put these assets through a variety of evaluations. I love birdwatching, and so I can appreciate what a bird watcher will come to see. It is not always what the biologists think. I love scuba diving, but a coral algal community with no parallel in the world might not be the best place to allow diving - if this unique ecosystem could be easily damaged. These are just some of my considerations!

I love the opportunity to confer with the biologists and protected area managers, after all I was trained as a wildlife biologist myself! But I then have to begin to "train" them to see the tourism economy in a whole new way!


  1. Love the new blog! Keep it up!

    Patten Wood
    US Travel

  2. I look forward to hearing what you learn about the sea turtles on your visit. With the Archie Carr Refuge in our county, we are "turtle-sensitive."

    What a grand sense of adventure you must have! Be safe in your travels.


  3. This sounds great!! Would definitely put a link on my blog!!

  4. Good luck with your assessment, Megan.

    I am currently working on a new guidebook project in Bangladesh... and I'm planning a visit to Teknaf in April. We could probably trade some information....

    -Mikey (


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