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Title: Ecotourism and its ecological impact : a study of tourist developments in the Mara
Author: Amoke, Irene
ISNI:       0000 0004 2740 6959
Awarding Body: Oxford Brookes University
Current Institution: Oxford Brookes University
Date of Award: 2012
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The increased growth of wildlife tourism in Kenya over the last few decades has placed increasing demand and attention for the development and subsequent delivery of sustainable tourism. Today ecotourism ventures are perceived by many as a solution to the negative impacts of "traditional" wildlife tourism and thus a way to achieve ecologicalsustainability within the industry. To date however, there has been no attempt to qualifyand quantify any possible wildlife impacts of ecotourism - the basis of this research, usingthe Mara Ecosystem as a case study. Using WildKnowledge© software, this research recorded biotic and abiotic data from wildlife tourism developments of various sizes and assessed their anthropogenic impacts upon key ungulate species in the ecosystem over a three year period. The findings of this aspect of the research indicate that the effects of the tourism industry on wildlife are highly species specific. In particular Buffalo were most affected by differences in tourism seasonal variability (X2=5.040, df=l, p=O.025), distance to developments (X2=23.341, df=l, p=O.OOO) and group size (X2=7.998, df=1, p=O.005) between the different lodge types. In contrast, waterbuck and eland displayed similar patterns of disturbance irrespective of lodge type or tourism seasonal variability. Using historical species count data spanning a twenty year period, kernel density maps were constructed to demonstrate spatial changes in ungulate density and distribution patterns in relation to tourism growth. The resulting density maps revealed that while the national reserve offered a measure of security to wildlife, many ungulate species still heavily utilised their historical dispersal areas in the community lands. Interestingly, despite the tourism related land use changes demonstrated in the Mara's landscape, some species e.g. eland, displayed an increase in range size - to 4s0.5km2 in 2010 from 399.Skm2 in 2005 following the creation of wildlife conservancies in the surrounding ranches. Constructing site suitability models, the research explored how GIS modelling techniques can be employed to identify suitable locations for tourist accommodation, without compromising the ecological integrity of the wildlife areas where these facilities will be located. Employing two different bed occupancy models (conservancy model; 350 acres/bed and a current model; ; 174 acres/bed, derived from existing facilities), the Mara Ecosystem's ability to accommodate further tourism growth at low ecological cost was demonstrated. Application of the highest suitability criteria to select potential development sites revealed two suitable locations. A further 54 locations were identified as suitable for ecocamps and ecolodges on application of the second highest site selection suitability criteria. Importantly, the models employed clearly demonstrate that the majority of future ecotourism facilities be located outside the National Reserve in the group ranches if they are to have limited wildlife impact, as over-utilisation of any single sections of the ecosystem will lead to resource depletion and localized species loss. The results presented highlight the need for a more integrative approach to ecotourism provision. The utility of GIS based models to project the impacts of human disturbances on wildlife populations under different tourism scenarios is reinforced by this research. These suitability models are easily modified and can therefore be used under different planning scenarios in other wildlife areas in Kenya and the region. It is therefore hoped, that the results from this study will influence policy direction for tourism planning in wildlife areas for the Mara and other ecosystems, and be used to complement the country's tourism and wildlife bills which are about to be passed into law. This research concludes that although ecotourism plays an important role in environmental conservation, its ecological impacts on wildlife in receiving environments can be significant and should be a primary consideration in deciding upon the efficacy of individual proposals.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available