ECOTOURISM AS A CONSERVATION STRATEGY IN KOMODO NATIONAL
PARK, INDONESIA

Henning Borchers
University of Auckland




Intr...
owned and operated. Ultimately, current           incidence of destructive fishing practices.
approaches to conservation a...
conservationists often conceptualise as           afforded by resource users from outside the
‘non-consumptive’, as it is ...
be crucial steps to meet the subsistence and       tourism are used interchangeably (see
livelihood needs of communities w...
ecotourism enterprises on the foundations of     restricted and alternatives denied, the poor
the existing tourism industr...
Funds (PDF). Block B Grant.
References                                               Washington,          D.C.:      Globa...
http://www.komodonationalpark.org/             tourism in Indonesia. Annals of
       downloads/Management%20Plan%        ...
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Devnet Paper Ecotourism

  1. 1. ECOTOURISM AS A CONSERVATION STRATEGY IN KOMODO NATIONAL PARK, INDONESIA Henning Borchers University of Auckland Introduction1 often fails to deliver on claims that it … ecotourism represents one contributes to rural development. Instead, it of the few areas where the link may be more conducive to meeting between economic develop- traditionally exclusionary conservation goals. ment and conservation of Without significant involvement in and natural areas is potentially clear benefit from protected area tourism and with and direct. (Brandon 1996:ii) tough restrictions or prohibitions on other forms of resource use, park residents Ecotourism development has become a struggle to meet subsistence needs to the prominent approach to address socio- extent that resettlement may be the only economic concerns in a conservation option to sustain their livelihoods. This context. Ecotourism is said to be a form of strategy of marginalising park residents to resource use that contributes both to the extent of exclusion is in accordance with conservation and rural development by a renewed emphasis on traditional generating revenue for park management protectionist approaches to conservation and by providing local communities with and protected area management, which sustainable livelihood alternatives and prioritise ecological imperatives ahead of economic benefits. Hence, ecotourism could socio-economic objectives under the be considered an ideal means of furthering perception of a global biodiversity crisis (see the sustainable development paradigm in a Wilshusen et al. 2002). The adoption of an protected area context, by meeting ‘the ecotourism discourse allows needs of the present without compromising conservationists to criminalise other forms of the ability of future generations to meet their resource use, yet within the policy own needs’ (WCED 1987:43; see also requirements of pursuing benefit sharing Fennell 1999:10; Brandon 1996). The and sustainable use of natural resources as conservation community has adopted the outlined in the Convention on Biological ecotourism concept as a means to partake Diversity (CBD 1992). in the sustainable development discourse and thus justify conservation regimes in the This paper discusses conservation and face of development needs particularly in community development strategies in the South (see Campbell 2002; Honey Komodo National Park (KNP), Indonesia. 1999:76). Moreover, conservation The national conservation agency – the organisations have thus gained access to Directorate General of Forest Protection and funding traditionally allocated to Nature Conservation (PHKA, formerly PKA) development (Campbell 2000:171; Honey – and the American environmental NGO The 1999:76). Nature Conservancy (TNC) promote ecotourism as one alternative to extractive Under current conservation regimes, resource use in the Park. While marine customary forms of resource use, such as resource extraction has been considerably agriculture and fishing, are often restricted, adequate alternatives have thus conceptualised as potentially unsustainable far not been provided to park residents. and are restricted or prohibited. Instead, Moreover, benefits from tourism have not conservationists promote ecotourism as the yet materialised and are unlikely to provide most sustainable form of resource use. As a feasible livelihood options in the future, as proposed alternative, however, ecotourism the industry is set to remain externally
  2. 2. owned and operated. Ultimately, current incidence of destructive fishing practices. approaches to conservation and community However, tougher restrictions also development suggest that a long-term considerably impact on the livelihoods of objective is the eventual relocation of park local people, as suitable alternatives to residents to neighbouring islands. banned or restricted forms of resource use have not yet been provided. The Conservation of Komodo National Park Approaches to Sustainable Use Historically, approaches to nature In 2000 the PHKA together with TNC conservation were fundamentally based on finalised a 25-year management plan, the notion of wilderness, as epitomised in according to which the provision of the North American national park concept. alternative livelihoods to communities within This concept, often referred to as the and surrounding the Park is to compensate ‘Yellowstone model’ (Stevens 1997:285), local resource users for restrictions on emphasises the preservation of pristine marine resource use. This approach is in nature for conservation, recreation and accordance with the prominence of the scientific purposes (Fennell 1999:78). It is sustainable development paradigm and the characterised by the forced relocation of acknowledgement of development needs of communities or by restrictions on resource communities within and surrounding use within the designated park area (Brechin protected areas. Over the past two decades, et al. 1991). Such restrictions on the use of political and philosophical debates around resources that local inhabitants historically the rights and needs of local resource users depended upon for daily subsistence furthered the discussion on the necessity to severely affected their livelihoods and reconcile conservation objectives with denied basic human needs, leading to human needs (Campbell 2000; Stevens resource use conflicts that continue to 1997; Ghimire and Pimbert 1997; West and determine many conservation contexts to Brechin 1991). These debates paved the date (Ghimire and Pimbert 1997; Stevens way for institutionalising the provision of 1997; West and Brechin 1991). benefit sharing and sustainable resource use along with conservation objectives, as Komodo National Park is one such example. articulated in the Convention on Biological The Park was established in 1980. It was Diversity (CBD 1992). In particular the further recognised as a Biosphere Reserve discourse on the sustainable use of natural by UNESCO in 1977 and inscribed on the resources and biodiversity has become a UNESCO World Heritage List in 1992 prominent rationale for nature conservation, (Goodwin et al. 1997:9-10). KNP is and it is propagated in the Komodo context. particularly known for accommodating the It is argued that biodiversity must be Komodo monitor, Varanus komodoensis, the valuable if it is to be conserved, and that world’s largest living lizard. Moreover, the value is derived through utilisation surrounding seas are said to be among the (Campbell 2002:30). Sustainable use is richest in the world (ibid.:34). Over the past defined in the Convention on Biological decades, the marine environment came Diversity (CBD 1992:4) as: under increasing pressure particularly from non-park inhabitants and commercial … the use of components of enterprises from as far away as Sulawesi, biological diversity in a way and who are still largely responsible for at a rate that does not lead to overexploitation and marine habitat the long-term decline of destruction (PKA and TNC 2000a:33). TNC biological diversity, thereby became involved in supporting the PHKA in maintaining its potential to meet park management in 1995 to address the the needs and aspirations of threats of destructive fishing practices to the present and future generations. marine ecosystem. Although legislation for park protection had been established, Sustainable use can take a number of enforcement of it had not been implemented forms. It ranges from ‘consumptive’ forms of (Pet and Djohani 1998:23). With the support resource extraction such as agriculture and of TNC, rigid enforcement decreased the fishing, to ecotourism, which
  3. 3. conservationists often conceptualise as afforded by resource users from outside the ‘non-consumptive’, as it is conceived to be Park, who have further been identified as non-extractive (Campbell 2002:30; Brandon posing the greatest threat to marine species 1998:394). The definition of sustainability and habitat (ibid.:27). The available data remains the domain of conservationists who indeed specifies that only a small group of may disregard local socio-economic needs park residents has been responsible for in favour of conservation objectives. Led by utilising harvesting methods considered the perception of a global biodiversity crisis, destructive (PKA and TNC 2000b:72). Yet the conception of sustainable use is often the conception of the practice as subject to the prioritisation of ecological unsustainable per se and its subsequent imperatives. Robinson (1993:24) argues that prohibition supported by tough enforcement ‘any use of a species (…) is likely to has considerably impacted on the encourage the overall loss of biodiversity’. livelihoods of the disadvantaged majority of He emphasises that an approach to communities within the Park. improving the quality of human life within the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems As a consequence, these resource users is ultimately at the expense of the suffer food shortage for at least four months conservation of natural resources and of the year, when meting is their main biodiversity (ibid.:22; see also Redford and source of income. Thus, while restrictions on Sanderson 2000). Subsequently, ‘non-use’, marine resource use in general affect the or strictly limited use, is often considered to majority of the surrounding population, be the only successful approach to communities within the Park bear the biodiversity conservation and nature highest costs under restrictions on this protection, suggesting a renewed emphasis particular resource use practice. Indeed, one on traditionally protectionist and could suggest that they have been singled exclusionary conservation approaches (see out in an attempt to promote ‘voluntary Campbell 2002; Wilshusen et al. 2002). resettlement’ out of the Park, which is an Ecotourism, as a supposedly non- official policy of the management initiative, consumptive form of resource use is thus as the carrying capacity of the Park is said regarded as an ideal option. However, to have been exceeded (see PKA and TNC considering the potential ecological impacts 2000b:66). Migration into the Park does of nature-based tourism, such as the pose a potential problem, but the current disturbance of wildlife and ecosystems, it policy of neglect not only discourages may be a questionable alternative to local migration. It further impinges considerably resource use (see Hughes 2002; van der on the lives of communities already resident Duim and Caalders 2002). The conception within the Park, and suggests that livelihood of sustainability that supports ecotourism alternatives are denied in an attempt to rid ahead of other forms of resource use may the Park off its inhabitants. Although TNC ultimately be based on double standards. introduced a number of alternative livelihood programs in fishing and mariculture, to date This dilemma is quite evident in KNP, where three of the four communities within the Park many customary forms of marine resource have not been targeted by these programs. use have been restricted. Moreover, TNC Instead, the programs have thus far focused claims that the collection of shellfish and on those communities outside the Park marine invertebrates (meting), a form of which are held responsible for destructive resource use upon which many park resource use practices. Ironically, resource residents rely for subsistence, is ‘highly user groups likely to be least responsible for destructive’ (Pet and Djohani 1998:23) and resource degradation pay the highest price is condemned even in ‘its simplest version’ for resource protection and are further (ibid.:18). This has ultimately led to its criminalised in their attempts to meet prohibition. The practice has in fact become subsistence needs. more destructive in incidence and impact through the combination of higher market With resource extraction restricted or prices for some of the harvested products prohibited, the involvement of local people in and the availability of better equipment. tourism development and the provision of However, such equipment can only be economic benefits from tourism would thus
  4. 4. be crucial steps to meet the subsistence and tourism are used interchangeably (see livelihood needs of communities within KNP. Brandon 1996:ii). In that case, ecotourism The PHKA and TNC have emphasised the may merely be a form of conventional potential for tourism development in KNP, as externally owned and operated nature- ecotourism is considered ‘[p]erhaps the based tourism, while it does not provide for most obvious sustainable use of the Park’s the local socio-economic components the resources’ (PKA and TNC 2000a:57). concept is supposed to entail. However, to date ecotourism as a rural development strategy has failed to meet the In the context of tourism development in needs of park residents. KNP, the PHKA and TNC refer to providing benefits to and involving local communities Ecotourism Development (see PKA and TNC 2000a:57). However, the Ecotourism has become one of the most overall conception of ‘ecotourism’ is more influential slogans of the 1990s in the reminiscent of traditional nature tourism. conservation and protected area Accordingly, management context. It ‘emerged like a phoenix from terms like nature tourism and [e]co-tourism is defined as wildlife tourism to become a universal visiting natural areas to view conservation catchword, an exemplar of and enjoy the plant and animal sustainable use’ (Western 1992, in Honey life with minimal or no impact 1999:21, emphasis in the original). The on the environment. (ibid.) concept is distinguished from conventional nature-based tourism both by its socio- Moreover, tourism in and around KNP has economic implications (Ross and Wall 1999; historically been under foreign control and Scheyvens 1999) and its potential to ownership, and most of the revenue is contribute to conservation efforts by generated outside the local economy, while providing for the self-financing of protected revenue generated at the local economic areas through user fees and concessions level does not benefit communities within (Dharmaratne et al. 2000). Through the the Park (Walpole and Goodwin 2000; provision of benefits and economic Goodwin et al. 1997; Hitchcock 1993). To alternatives to rural communities, change this condition would require focusing ecotourism is considered a valid response to on developing the capacity of park residents resource use conflicts, particularly in to become involved in tourism planning, protected areas (Brandon 1996). Ecotourism management and operation. More development ideally relies on the significantly, as the poor and disadvantaged involvement of a range of interest groups community members suffer most under and the participation and empowerment of resource use restrictions, they should rural communities. The devolution of control become the beneficiaries of ecotourism and a level of ownership to rural development unless other alternatives are communities is considered an essential provided. However, to date there has been component of this approach (Ross and Wall little benefit to and involvement of park 1999:124; Scheyvens 1999:246; Brandon residents. The few economic benefits from 1996:29). Community involvement in tourism that accrue to a handful of people planning, management and operation of hardly suffice to even meet their subsistence ecotourism becomes an indicator of the needs, and most of them continue to remain extent to which communities benefit from engaged in fishing activities as well. ecotourism, not only economically, but further socially and politically, as a means of Moreover, future tourism development on empowerment (Scheyvens 1999). the islands is considerably restricted, and tourism infrastructure will continue to be However, both in theory and practice, the developed outside the Park only (PKA and distinction between the broad field of nature- TNC 2000a:57), while the limited based tourism and its subset ecotourism is infrastructure within the Park is owned and not always clearly defined and there are operated by the civil servants of the national many areas for overlap (Burton 1997:757). park authority (Goodwin et al. 1997:54ff). Frequently, ecotourism and nature-based Plans to develop highly professional
  5. 5. ecotourism enterprises on the foundations of restricted and alternatives denied, the poor the existing tourism industry in Komodo majority of park residents may eventually (PKA and TNC 2000a:68) further suggest have to resettle to neighbouring islands to that revenue will continue to be generated sustain their livelihoods. This would provide outside the local economy by the state, the for the nature ideal that led traditional private sector, foreign investors and the conservation practice, emphasising the national – and local – elite (see Walpole and preservation of pristine nature for protection, Goodwin 2000). recreation and scientific purposes. TNC together with a Jakarta-based tourism Conclusion operator propose a 25-year concession for The adoption of an ecotourism approach to tourism development that also has far- conservation provides conservationists with reaching park management implications. a politically and philosophically attractive While no guidelines are provided that outline means to limit other forms of resource use, how local communities would become more as by subscribing to the ecotourism involved in management and benefit discourse, they find a means to get ‘off the sharing, propositions to date suggest that hook’ in the sustainable use discourse (see the concession would enable TNC to Campbell 2000:179). With other forms of institutionalise its already dominant position resource use restricted, an increased in the decision-making process of park involvement in ecotourism is proposed as management (see Dhume 2002). The the most sustainable alternative for local proposed concession is part of a project communities. However, when tourism fails to funded, among others, by the Global provide suitable alternatives, resource use Environmental Facility (GEF). The GEF restrictions have a considerable impact on provides the funds to improve the tourism local livelihoods. This dilemma is quite infrastructure of KNP to justify considerable evident in KNP, where tourism is set to be increases in entrance fees, and to attract owned and operated by outsiders, instead of high-end tourists. To generate sufficient significantly involving the local population. revenue in order to reach financial self- By restricting extractive resource use, sufficiency for the Park, the project communities who are dependent on envisages the development of ‘larger scale resources for their survival are severely ecotourism activities’ (GEF 2000:2) and ‘an hampered in their attempts to sustain a expanded speciality dive market, possibly livelihood and may be left with no other with a shift towards semi-mass tourism’ option but resettlement. Thus, the theoretical (Environment North and Associated propositions of ecotourism may have little Consultants 2001:106). Considering the resemblance to the practical implications of potential ecological impacts of nature-based tourism development in and around tourism, such a liberal approach to tourism protected areas, which are determined by development undermines the integrity of the the interest of powerful external management decision to prohibit meting per stakeholders. Instead, the adoption of an se and suggests that in the conception of ecotourism discourse can be more sustainability, double standards have been conducive to furthering exclusionary employed in accordance with the interests of approaches to protected area conservation. the most powerful stakeholders, the conservation and the business community. Notes The way tourism development is envisaged 1 The theme of this paper is discussed in in the future suggests that it will remain more detail in the MA dissertation, Jurassic determined by top-down planning and Wilderness: Ecotourism as a Conservation external ownership and operation. Strategy in Komodo National Park, Subsequently, low levels of local Indonesia (2002). I would like to thank participation and economic benefits continue NZAID for supporting the field research to undermine the perceived potential of component of this project. ecotourism as a tool for sustainable community development and local empowerment. Instead, with resource use
  6. 6. Funds (PDF). Block B Grant. References Washington, D.C.: Global Brandon, K. (1996). Ecotourism and Environmental Facility. Conservation: A Review of Key Ghimire, K.B. and Pimbert, M.P. (1997). Issues. Washington: The World Social change and conservation: An Bank. overview of issues and concepts. In Brandon, K. (1998). Perils to parks: The K.B. Ghimire and M.P. Pimbert, social context of threats. In K. (eds), Social Change and Brandon, K.H. Redford and S.E. Conservation. London: Earthscan Sanderson (eds), Parks in Peril: Publications Limited, pp.1-45. People, Politics, and Protected Goodwin, H.J., Kent, I.J., Parker, K.T. and Areas. Washington, D.C.: Island Walpole, M.J. (1997). Tourism, Press, pp.415-439. Conservation & Sustainable Brechin, R.B., West, P.C., Harmon, D. and Development: Volume III, Komodo Kutay, K. (1991). Protected areas: National Park, Indonesia, online, A framework for inquiry. In P.C. available at: West and R.B. Brechin (eds), http://www.icrtourism.org/Publication Resident Peoples and National s/Volume%203.pdf (6 October Parks. Social Dilemmas and 2002) Strategies in International Hitchcock, M. (1993). Dragon tourism in Conservation. Tucson AZ, USA: The Komodo, Eastern Indonesia. In M. University of Arizona Press, pp. 5– Hitchcock, V.T. King and M.J.G. 28. Parnwell (eds), Tourism in Burton, F. (1998). Can ecotourism Southeast Asia. London: Routledge, objectives be achieved? Annals of pp. 303-316. Tourism Research, 25(3):755-758. Honey, M. (1999). Ecotourism and Campbell, L.M. (2000). Human need in rural Sustainable Development: Who developing areas: Perceptions of owns Paradise? Washington, D.C.: wildlife conservation experts. Island Press. Canadian Geographer, 44(2):167- Hughes, G. (2002). Environmental 185. indicators. Annals of Tourism Campbell, L.M. (2002). Conservation Research, 29(2):457-477. narratives in Costa Rica: Conflict Pet, J.S. and Djohani, R.H. (1998). and co-existence. Development and Combating destructive fishing Change, 33:29-56. practices in Komodo National Park: CBD/Convention on Biological Diversity Ban the hookah compressor! SPC (1992), online, available at: Live Reef Fish Information Bulletin, http://www.biodiv.org/doc/legal/cbd- 4:17-28. en.pdf (12 October 2002) PKA and TNC (2000a) 25 Year Master Plan Dharmaratne, G.S., Yee Sang, F. and for Management Komodo National Walling, L.J. (2000). Tourism Park, Book 1: Management Plan. potentials for financing protected Jakarta: Direktorat Perlindungan areas. Annals of Tourism Research, dan Konservasi Alam, online, 27(3): 590-610. available at: Dhume, S. (2002). Jurassic showdown. Far http://www.komodonationalpark.org/ Eastern Economic Review, March downloads/Management%20Plan% 16th, pp.50-52. 20Book%201.pdf (31 August 2002) Environment North and Associated PKA and TNC (2000b). 25 Year Master Plan Consultants (2001). Komodo for Management Komodo National National Park Tourism Strategy. Park, Book 2: Data and Analysis. North Cairns: Environment North. Jakarta: Direktorat Perlindungan Fennell, D.A. (1999). Ecotourism: An dan Konservasi Alam, online, Introduction. New York: Routledge. available at: GEF/Global Environmental Facility (2000). Proposal for Project Development
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