The impact of ecotourism on changing perceptions about a PA

Dilya Woodward
Published: 31 March 2016
Last edited: 29 March 2019
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Summary

The Almaty Nature Reserve in Kazakhstan is an attractive destination for ecotourists due to its rich biodiversity, modern tourism infrastructure in nearby city of Almaty and international flight connections. Although met with some local resistance when created due to imposed restrictions, a three pronged strategy focusing on environmental, educational and public engagement has improved relations with communities and the reserve now welcomes ecotourists every year and hosts annual eco events.

Classifications

Region
West Asia, Middle East
Scale of implementation
National
Ecosystem
Forest ecosystems
Freshwater ecosystems
Grassland ecosystems
Pool, lake, pond
River, stream
Temperate deciduous forest
Temperate grassland, savanna, shrubland
Theme
Indigenous people
Outreach & communications
Protected area management planning
Tourism
Challenges
Ecosystem loss
Lack of access to long-term funding
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor governance and participation

Location

Almaty Nature Reserve, in the town of Talgar (near Almaty City), Kazakhstan

Challenges

lack of ecological awareness, limited funding, low wages, negativity to protection regime The main challenge in promoting ecotourism activities in the reserve are linked to limited ecological awareness of the local population, lower standards of living comparing to metropolitan areas and negative perception of the protected area that was formed due to the conservation regime.

Beneficiaries

Government authorities, administration of the reserve, members of staff of the reserve, local population, school teachers and students

How do the building blocks interact?

Ecocamps are used as a dialogue platform between local population, e.i. children of Talgar and the Reserve’s staff. By engaging in different activities at the ecocamp, children learn about biodiversity of the PA, about the threats on endangered species, they acquire new skills like setting up a tent, cooking in the field etc. When children return home, they tell their parents about activities that they were engaged in. Parents, in their turn, start developing a connection to the nature of the area that they live in and feel favorable to the Reserve’s staff for taking time and efforts in educating children and providing activities for summer holidays. By engaging different stakeholders and media representatives, the image of the PA and the main messages get distributed to the wider audience. The media coverage then helps the Reserve’s staff to build a profile that, in turn, helps in obtaining further funding for research.

Impacts

Regulated ecotourism activities proved to be a good solution to overcome the challenges that the management of the reserve faced. The positive impacts of ecotourism include: - Closer collaboration between members of staff of the Reserve and local schools and colleges - Deeper engagement of local population in such initiatives as March of Parks, Birds Day, Day of Snowdrops etc. - Better standards of living of local population - More opportunities for locals to develop small businesses such as felt making for souvenirs, dairy production etc. - Increased environmental awareness of youth in Talgar town - Lesser involvement of local population in illegal activities (picking endangered species of plants and capturing wildlife species) One example of the impact includes such important initiatives as “March for Parks”: Since 1996, members of staff take an active part in the international rally “March for Parks”. This initiative has grown from a one day event to a large scale event of national significance that attracts a lot of attention from the media and reaches more than 10,000 people in two months. In 2010 Almaty Nature Reserve won the first prize and in 2011 members of staff received another award – for the best film.

Story

In the city of Talgar there is a small paradise with roses, fruit gardens and vegetable patches surrounded by fir trees and inhabited by squirrels, pheasants and hedgehogs. The owners of this paradise are children - young naturalists of the "Society of Young Ecologists" and their leader for the past 25 years – Mamed Makhmudov. Mr Makhmudov and his young ecologists are well known in the region and abroad. They are frequent winners festivals, contests, forums, scientific competitions. No event in the town takes place without their participation. The 3 ha of land, former monastery in pre-Soviet times, is its own world. Each pupil has his duties – to care for the flowers, to dig soil, to water vegetables. Children take turns in order to develop diverse skills. There are currently 700 members in the society. But the grounds are too small to receive all its members at once. Therefore, an average of 20-30 children come each day. Mr Makhmudov notes: “By establishing close ties with plants and animals, children open their true souls, they become kinder, passionate and honest. Many of them come from underprivileged families. For me the most important thing is that children feel that they are bringing positive changes to the society and that their work is needed”. Artur Albrant studies the indigenous type of apples “Aport” for the past 5 years researches the behavior of wild bees. Ilya Sheglov is the winner of national Competition of Small Academy of Sciences. He studies the purple willow, an aboriginal specie of Talgar mountains. The young environmentalists are preparing for the most anticipated event of the year - the traditional ecocamp in Almaty State Reserve. It is a time filled with not just a romance with hiking, swimming in mountain streams and other attributes of camp life in the mountains. An active research work is carried out under the supervision of the Reserve staff and the Ile-Alatau National Park. The Reserve members of staff take care of children’s safety, transportation and equipment (partially) according to a 3-way agreement between the Reserve, National Park and the Society. About 70% of graduates of the Society become teachers, medical doctors, biologists, rangers. For example, Zh. Dirbayeva and K. Pichugina became winners of the national scientific competition “Daryn” and received grants to study at the Medical University. “Young naturalists are the most grateful students and they are my life’s mission” – said Mamed Makhmudov.

Contributed by

Dilya Woodward

Other contributors

Al-Farabi Kazakh National University
Ms Alexandra Vishnevskaya
Almaty Nature Reserve