Ecotourism potential of frogs in South Africa
Ecotourism is the fastest growing sector of the international travel industry, which in turn is one of the worlds’ largest and fastest growing industries. Ecotourism, defined as a visit to a fragile, unspoiled, and protected area, has become very popular over the last decade, particularly in South Africa. These experiences helps to educate tourists (travellers), provides funds for nature and cultural conservation, raises respect for the environment and cultures, and lastly directly benefits economic development of the local communities. Ecotourism in South Africa can be a powerful conservation tool, one that encourages people to maintain and protect the natural environment. Traditionally amphibians have not generated much attention among eco-tourists, partly because they are easily overshadowed by other more charismatic taxa or habitat attractions, and partly because the possibility of frog-related ecotourism has been poorly investigated. This unique and underappreciated animal group has been under severe pressure since the industrial revolution, with almost a third of the nearly 7,000 known amphibian species listed as threatened by the IUCN. In amphibians, an entire class of vertebrates are facing a mass extinction spasm and conservation actions are needed in order to save them. Both environmental and human threats such as climate change, emerging diseases, pollution, exotic species, and habitat loss are major causes of amphibian loss worldwide. To minimize the existing threats in the amphibian extinction crisis, the global community must respond in an innovative and multidisciplinary approach to protect amphibians at an unprecedented scale. It is crucial to protect frogs because they form part of South Africa’s natural heritage and ecotourism is a means by which amphibians can be protected. Innovative methods to attract tourists to take part in amphibian ecotourism activities is needed, due to amphibians traditionally not being a species that people find interesting. Statistics shows that people do not have much interest in viewing amphibian, reptile, insects, or fish species. This project investigated the possibility of using ecotourism as a conservation tool for amphibian conservation, especially in South Africa. Species distribution maps were created to indicate the overlap of current ecotourism destinations with frog habitat hotspots to determine if these destinations can be a starting point for the conservation of amphibians. Frogging is a well-known term within the frog conservation society where it describes the activity of searching for frogs in the wild. Frogging can be combined with other ecotourism activities to attract tourists and create an interest in the conservation of frogs, while having fun. The aim was to determine the ecotourism potential of frogs in South Africa, primarily by distributing questionnaires to tourists to retrieve information on whether they would be interetd in partaking in frog-related ecotourism activities. This project identified 22 South African parks that can be used as a marketing tool for the start of frog-related ecotourism activities. The 22 parks coincide with frog hotspots and are distributed all over South Africa. Furthermore, the outcome of the questionnaire was also very positive as the tourists indicated that they would like to participate in frog related activities. The project will introduce the wonders and excitement of frogging to the South African community and thereby promote it as a new tourism activity in South Africa. In return the data tourists will gather from their frogging expedition can be used by scientists and conservationists for research and management of species. Ultimately, tourism activities can contribute towards the conservation of frogs in South Africa.