Posted by: ecodestination | May 31, 2009

Ecotourists – shut up to save wildlife



Tourists’ noise pollution doesn’t only harm endangered sea turtles—it also harms hoatzins. It’s to be expected, right? …Except this noise pollution comes from ecotourists.

Bird watching can have its perils, it seems, since even quiet conversation among bird watchers can cause extreme stress to some species of wild birds. Daniel Karp of Stanford University has researched three species of hoatzins (Opisthocomus hoazin) in areas surrounding various eco lodges within the Peruvian Amazon.

Even library conversation-volume chats induced defense mechanisms in the birds, causing them to cluck and defecate. Wow. The birds were found to climb and fly away as well. The hoatzins’ behavior was contingent on how loudly people spoke.

What’s most troublesome is the fact that stress disturbs these birds’ rearing capabilities, thwarting the chicks’ training to become self-sufficient and leading to “heightened mortality rates.”

To gather information, Karp approached hoatzin habitats by canoe and experimented between being silent and playing recordings of conversations at different volumes from different distances, keeping track of when birds became stressed enough to fly away. Karp first tried playing the conversations at 50 decibels (library conversation volume), then at 60 (actual volume of typical tourists’ chats in bird watching zones), and at 70 (the loudest conversations he was able to record). The study was conducted last year and lasted one month.

While Karp says “ceas[ing] all conversation” and staying far enough away should be sufficient to prevent freaking out hoatzins, behavioral ecologist and conservation biologist at UCLA Dam Blumstein says that, although we think being ecotourists is awesome, we’re being careless and irresponsible anyway.

Moral of the study: ecotourism is not as green as we may have thought.

No kidding. (Yes, I am bitter.)

Apparently, even when quietly hiking through undergrowth, [eco]tourists cause wildlife extreme stress. Bird watching, wildlife watching, and hiking are all harmful to carnivores’ survival and/or reproduction rates. The victims are dolphins, dingoes, penguins, and polar bears, among many other species.

Well, crap.

Not only should we keep from being destructive when in natural areas, but we should also not even go there.

Well, at least now I have evidence to back up my theory that ecotourism and eco hotels within fragile natural areas do more harm than good.



  1. […] Remain quiet in biodiversity areas – even the beach! And especially at night, when many animals venture out to nest, spawn, feed, and so on. Even whispering and small amounts of light have been found to disrupt the mating and normal behavior of wild birds and other animals. […]

  2. […] endangered sea turtles go to nest? Or if people with good intentions visit bird sanctuaries and fail to keep their mouths shut? […]

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