Determinants of the Biodiversity Conservation-tourism Nexus in the Buffer Zone of Amboseli Biosphere Reserve, Kenya
Mwakima, Margaret Wawuda
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Tourism is an important ecocomic sector that generates billions of dollars all over the world. In Kenya, tourism is an important economic sector, contributing nearly 12% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. The main resource base of this sector is a rich cultural and biological diversity. Despite the significance of tourism sector, its contribution to biodiversity conservation is not well understood, yet the two should be planned in an integrated manner. This study sought to establish the contribution of tourism to biodiversity conservation in Amboseli Biosphere Reserve. The specific objectives were to assess the threats to biodiversity conservation, to evaluate the effects of wildlife displacement by tourism infrastructure, and to determine the opinions of the local community on the effects of land use change, sustainability of biodiversity and tourism in the study area.This study was conceptualized on the premise that biodiversity conservation can be supported through wise stewardship and management of species and ecosystems. In order to achieve the research objectives, a stratified random sampling design incorporating both descriptive and analytical approaches was adopted. Field observations, interview schedules and questionnaires were used to gather data on biodiversity management practices, development of tourism infrastructure, threats to biodiversity and tourism; and opinions of local community about benefits from tourism and land use change. The results from 447 respondents, reviews of existing documents and field vists showed that changing land use, human encroachment, hunting for bush meat and game trophy, human-wildlife conflict and growing infrastructure development, including fencing were major threats to biodiversity in the buffer zone of Amboseli Biosphere Reserve. About 68% of the respondents were concerned that infrastructure associated with tourism development was displacing wildlife and disrupting their movement and behaviour. There were also no significant differences in the opinions of local community regarding the effects of land use change on biodiversity and tourism in the wildlife buffer zone around the park. A majority of the responses (83%) of the land owners and tourism related business owners were of the opinion that sustained favourable economic returns and effective community involvement in biodiversity conservation and tourism development were fundamental. This was necessary because the more attractive economic activities, such as land leasing to external developers and crop farming in the ranches increased human-wildlife conflict by restricting their movement to access to water and forage, especially during the dry season. The socio-demographic trends of local community and the changing values attached to land and wildlife are likely to influence the future of biodiversity conservation and tourism in Amboseli Biosphere Reserve. Group ranch owners and all the stakeholders should form mutually beneficial partnerships so as to sustain biodiversity conservation, tourism and livelihoods of the local communities.