WILDLIFE ECO-TOURISM IN NEW ZEALAND
Tourism is a major world industry with 449 million international travellers world wide in 1991, and generating approximately US$ 62.5 billion in developing countries alone. A sub-set of tourism known as eco-tourism. Scace (1993) defined eco-tourism as a subset of nature tourism in which conservationist and tourist interests work together to preserve environmental quality while mutually protecting tourism. Eco-tourism is increasing at a rate of about 30% each year world-wide. It is often assumed that eco-tourism “does not denigrate the resource” and that, if anything, “eco-tourism must benefit the resource”.
The livelihoods of many people are linked to the success of the eco-tourism industry, however the continued long-term sustainability of the species targeted by eco-tourism operations are subject to our ability to appropriately manage wildlife encounters. New Zealand offers many tourists their first opportunity to view marine mammals in their natural environment, and the opportunity for close encounters with marine mammals not available to tourists in other countries. With such a wide range of opportunities for tourists to interact with marine mammals, the industry is increasing in popularity and subsequently there is an increasing demand for tourist encounters with marine mammals.
Five species of dolphins, six species of whales and two species of pinnipeds are encountered on a regular basis in New Zealand ; along with about four other cetacean species and two other pinniped species that may be encountered on rare occasions.