Birding in Trinidad and Tobago: the economic benefits

White-necked Jacobin. Image: Dave Curtis

In a post on the blog Wild Tobago, wildlife photographer Faraaz Abdool writes about birding in Trinidad and Tobago and the potential for economic benefit through avitourism:

For a physically tiny country, T&T has an extreme wealth and diversity of birdlife. Clocking almost five hundred avian species, our twin islands are high on the list of many birdwatchers’ ideal destinations, unbeknownst to most of us. Some of the largest tour companies in the world run annual birding trips to T&T; many of them do multiple tours each year based on sheer demand and the fact that trips are often sold out months in advance.

What this means is that the groundwork involved to kickstart an entire industry has already been done. The infrastructure is already in place, the soil is already fertilized. With the current state of affairs worldwide and the burgeoning ecological sensitivity among global powerhouses, there is no better time to capitalize upon this rapidly growing sector.

In a 2014 survey among Americans, it was found that there were approximately 60 million birdwatchers in the USA alone. A considerable portion of these indicated that they travel as part of their birding experience. Given the fact that most birders are relatively affluent, they are more likely to inject foreign exchange into our economy than say, backpackers on a budget who are looking for a beach to sip a beer and take a selfie. I interviewed a bird photographer who visited T&T for two weeks in December 2017; he spent upwards of seven thousand US dollars on his trip which all goes towards local tour guides, locally owned hotel accommodation and food.

T&T is already on the birding map of the world. What is currently needed is a nationwide awareness campaign that highlights the economic benefit of live birds in their natural habitat, and the benefits that we as a nation stand to inherit from this paradigm shift in perception. People do not fork out thousands of dollars to travel to our shores to see dead Black-bellied Whistling Ducks in someone’s pot. Local communities are the first to benefit from being known as a birding “hotspot”, supporting local guides, taxi drivers, farmers, craftspeople and more.

Read the full article over at Wild Tobago.


[Image: Dave Curtis]

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