Tourism suporting conservation


No protected area on earth has a greater variety of life than the Madidi Mosaic. This fact alone demonstrates the urgency of protecting this area. Since the creation of the Madidi National Park in 1995 funding for international non governmental organizations to work in these areas has poured in. Unfortunately, these past ten years have demonstrated the increasing degradation of these areas, as well as the growing disempowerment of its native peoples.

True conservation work requires on the field work, not glamorous studies and publications resulting from brief forays to the area from those who live in the cities, studies that do not reflect the reality of the conditions of the local population and that are used for others to patent the flora and fauna of the area (based on local knowledge), leaving the original inhabitants of the area in conditions of poverty. True conservation work is risky, tiring, and requires dealing with conflicts with economic interest groups such as mining companies, lumber companies, oils companies, land hoarders, etc. It also requires penetrating deep in the rainforest and jungle to explore the values that exist there, and to identify the richest and most fragile places that require protection.

While carrying out monitoring and protection work in Serere, Rosa Maria Ruiz was attacked by an over four meter long caiman which entered Serere after escaping from a property where caiman are raised in captivity, and therefore made hostile, for commercial reasons. These are the risks run when true conservation and protection are taking place.

Ecobolivia’s successful conservation efforts were rewarded by previous governments with the destruction of all of its eco tourism networks within the Madidi National Park and by the attempted assassination of its director. These types of abuses were obviously not limited to Eco Bolivia and eventually led to a popular uprising that forced former president, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, to flee the country.

Bolivia’s current president, Evo Morales, who received over 50% of the vote in national elections and whose popularity reached up to over 80%, has won this support because of his commitment to recover Bolivia’s natural resources for Bolivia. This provides an important opportunity for conservation work to be intensified in the country. Through our private sanctuary of Serere, we hope to develop a conservation model which can be replicated in Bolivia and internationally. We consider that conservation requires not only protecting what remains in good shape, but also actively recovering areas that have been damaged through re-forestation, re-introduction of endangered fauna, and other activities.

However, one thing is clear: conservation will not be successful while we do not provide means of subsistence to the local population. Tourism can be one contribution for this subsistence.