Saturday, 30 May 2009

A Ray of Despond: Stress and Ecotourism

A study has concluded that Stingrays at Grand Cayman sandbanks are stressed (with a subsequent depression of their immune systems making them more prone to disease) by tourists scuba diving with them ( This seems to apply even when the fish are not physically touched. Other studies have suggested that penguins and dolphins (credited in some circles with almost 'mystical' healing powers) can also be stressed by swimming humans, leading to some popular ecotourism venues concluding that allowing these activities is detrimental for the animals that attract visitors in the first place. The situation is not, however, always this simple as some species appear to benefit from the presence of humans (who deter their predators and/or making their feeding more efficient, leaving more time and energy for reproduction). What we really need is proper evaluation in each case.


Katherine said...

Ecotourism is big business in New Zealand - we have whale-watching off Kaikoura and 'swim with the dolphins' here in the Bay of Plenty, to name but two... scientific evaluation, like art, is a luxury in an economic downturn... I endorse your opinion that data should be collected - in many many areas including those that would provide indicators for climate change. Flora and fauna baselines, like the type you are doing Paul.

Paul Brain said...

Thanks for that Katherine. I appreciate the difficulties in economic turn downs but there is always the danger of 'killing the goose that lays the golden egg'. Even when econmies are doing well, people seem remarkably resistant to investing in a bit of science.

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