Letter: Indigenous people count

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Indy Lifestyle Online
IN Matthew Brace's article "Where tourists may not tread" (25 January), I feel that part of the argument over whether tourism is a positive or negative force for conservation has been neglected. That is, namely, the value that indigenous people place on their natural resources.

If, as suggested, areas of high biodiversity and conservation interest become no-go areas for tourists and local people, they effectively lose their economic value. Once the area does not produce revenue, and local people are not allowed to gather food or building materials from the site, it effectively becomes a wasteland, and becomes prey to poaching and uncontrolled exploitation.

In the West we are in a position to be able to judge that the instrinsic value of tropical rainforests is greater than their value as timber, or that the social intelligence of elephants makes them inherently priceless. What we are not so good at is answering the questions posed by those living in contact with tropical forests (whose resources they have used for thousands of years) or elephants (who raid crops, and kill people).

Carefully controlled and monitored tourism can be a positive factor in the conservation of some rare and fragile habitats by supporting local economies. But local communities must be able to participate.

Anna Spenceley, MSc

Royston, Hertfordshire