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Economy - Development | Politics | Environment - Nature | Society

S. Africa avitourism viable

afrol News, 11 April - Tempted by the success of its avitourism [birding's ecotourism] conservation, BirdLife has announced the development of six new birding routes in South Africa's Western Cape and Cape Town areas.

Tourism, especially birding routes, has outperformed all other sectors in South Africa's economy. Popular birding routes generate an estimated US $6.4 million annually for local people.

Birding routes provide tourists with suggested itineraries, trained local guides and birder-friendly accommodation within areas of spectacular avian diversity. And according to BirdLIfe, this successful combination is providing sustainable conservation, increased bird awareness and vital employment opportunities for local communities.

To date, more than 140 guides have been trained, creating not only a new generation of conservationists in some of the country’s poorest areas, but also enabling many guides to speak of the value of birds - both economically and ecologically.

“I am taking bird guiding as my career path. Not only has my family benefited from bird guiding, but the whole of Nyoni village now thinks twice about birds. I am fully involved with the community conservation programme”, Shusisio Magagula (Amatikulu) told BirdLife.

Several reasons, including a lack of support and resources for marketing, managing and fundraising, are often attributed to the failure of community projects in their early years.

But part of the Birding Routes success has been setting up of local offices tasked with facilitating joint marketing, bookings and support of the guides. They also provide a single point of information and resources for the guide's clientele.

The new routes will afford tourists guided-access to over 600 bird species. Of these, 28 [Cape Siskin Serinus totta, Orange-breasted Sunbird Nectarinia violacea and Cape Sugarbird Promerops cafer] are endemic to the Western Cape. A two-week trip could be expected to yield in excess of 350 species.

“The Birding Route system has worked very well in Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal, but the Western Cape’s wonderful variety of birds have enjoyed less of a profile than its other assets such as whales and wine. We’d like to see this change, and these routes could help to achieve it”, BirdLife SA Project Manager, Dr Anton Odendal, said.

BirdLife South Africa's expansion of the number of Birding Routes is proving the effectiveness of avitourism projects. Working alongside local people, the routes are successfully linking social, economic and environmental needs – crucial characteristics of effective sustainable development, BirdLife said.

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