Code of Environmental Ethics for Nature Travel

Tourists can be valuable allies in the fight to conserve natural resources. In fact, one of the ideas behind ecotourism is to prove that the forest is worth more economically in its virgin state than cut down and converted to pasture.

The Audubon Society of Costa Rica has outlined a code of environmental ethics for nature travel. Most responsible ecotourism agencies try to follow the code as closely as possible. If you experience instances where this code is being violated, you can write to Audubon (address below).

1. Wildlife and natural habitats must not be needlessly disturbed. Visitors should stay on the trails, avoid using machetes, and not collect plants. Some ecosystems, such as coral reefs, are particularly sensitive, and special care should be taken to avoid damaging them.

Visitors should keep their distance from wildlife so it is not compelled to take flight. Animal courtship, nesting or feeding of young must not be interrupted. Bird nests should be observed from a safe distance through binoculars. Nesting sea turtles should be viewed only with the assistance of a trained guide.

Photographers also should keep their distance; foliage should not be removed from around nests and animals should not be molested for the sake of a picture.

Monkeys and other wild animals should not be fed, because this alters their diet and behavior.

2. Waste should be disposed of properly. Tour operators should set a good example for visitors by making sure that all garbage is confined to the proper receptacles. Boats and buses must have trash cans. Special care should be taken with plastic.

No littering of any kind should be tolerated. When possible, tourists and tour groups should use returnable or reusable containers.

3. Tourism should be a positive influence on local communities. Tourists and tour operators should make every reasonable effort to allow communities near natural areas to benefit from tourism. By hiring local guides, patronizing locally-owned restaurants and lodges, and buying handicrafts, tourists can help convince residents that wild places are worth saving.

4. Tourism should be managed and sustainable. Tour operators should encourage managers of parks and reserves including the Costa Rican government, to develop and implement long- term management plans. These plans should prevent deterioration of ecosystems, prevent overcrowding, distribute visitors to under-utilized areas, and consider all present and future environmental impacts.

5. Tourism should be culturally sensitive. Tour operators should give visitors an opportunity to enjoy and learn from Costa Rica's mix of cultures. Tourism should serve as a bridge between cultures, allowing people to interact and enrich their understanding of how other people live. Tours should be designed to take advantage of and not conflict with local cultural traditions.

6. There must be no commerce in wildlife, wildlife products, or native plants. There are strict international laws prohibiting the purchase or transport of endangered or migratory wildlife. Tourists should be discouraged from buying or collecting any wildlife or plants, even if they are legal. Audubon does not tolerate trade in wild birds, feathers, stuffed birds or animals, sea turtle products of any kind, snakes and lizards or their skins, coral, furs or orchids and other plants (except those commercially grown).

7. Tourists should leave with a greater understanding and appreciation of nature, conservation and the environment. Visits to parks and refuges should be led by experienced, well-trained and responsible naturalists and guides. Guides should be able to provide proper supervision of the visitors, prevent disturbances to the area, answer questions of the visitors regarding flora and fauna and describe the conservation issues relevant to the area.

8. Tourism should strengthen the conservation effort and enhance the natural integrity of places visited. Tour operators should collaborate with conservation organizations and government agencies in finding ways of putting the economic resources generated by tourism to work improving Costa Rica's environmental programs.

Equally important, tourism's human resources, including visitors, should be harnessed to avid conservation. Visitors should be made aware of Costa Rica's great conservation achievements as well as the problems.

The best tour operators will find ways for interested tourists to voice their support of conservation programs: by contributing money, volunteering to work in a park or in the ecological organizations listed below, writing letters of support, planting a tree, or other creative outlets for concerned activism.


World Wildlife Fund 1250 24th St NW

Washington, DC 20037, USA

Fundacion Neotropica
The Nature Conservancy
International Program
1815 North Lynn St.
Arlington, VA,22209, USA

Monteverde Cloud Forest
National Audubon Society
950 Third Avenue
New York, NY, 10002, USA

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