Tourism Puts Mekong River Dolphins at Risk?

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Tourist boats looking for dolphins in the Mekong River, Cambodia. Pic: G E Ryan

Tourist boats looking for dolphins in the Mekong River, Cambodia. Pic: G E Ryan

Recent research suggests that while dolphin and whale tourism in Southeast Asia can be great for communities, it can also come at a cost to the environment, reports The Conversation.

Dolphin- and whale-watching tourism is a booming industry worldwide, and it’s growing apace in developing parts of Asia. Many tourists flock to see spinner dolphins in Bali or Bohol; blue whales off Sri Lanka; Chinese white dolphins in Hong Kong; or Irrawaddy dolphins in great rivers like the Mekong and Ayeyarwaddy (as the Irrawaddy is now known).

This interest in seeing wildlife is a boon: it provides jobs for local people skippering boats, selling souvenirs, or staffing restaurants and hotels. It also gives a growing Asian middle class the chance to get close to wildlife that many people are increasingly separated from in day-to-day life.

By providing jobs and building compassion for the species it targets, dolphin-watching tourism can thus provide an incentive to protect threatened species such as critically endangered river dolphins. But it has a cost.

Full story at The Conversation.

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