Bird-watching — a newfound avenue for revenue?

The notion that birds are not only a passion for many but also bring good business for others appears to be getting clearer in the state.

Written by Express News Service | Ahmedabad | Published: January 23, 2012 5:23:03 am

The notion that birds are not only a passion for many but also bring good business for others appears to be getting clearer in the state.

Its latest example is the four-day international birdwatcher’s conference that was handled by one of the larger business associations and organised not by the forest department but by the tourism department.

Many of the invited participants were foreign and domestic journalists,travel writers and tour operators,although quite a few were also students and ornithologists and amateur birders. And most speakers at the culminating session — held at the Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar — focused on cameras,photography and tourism,with at least one even proposing that other accessories such as bird-calls could have entrepreneurial potential.

Also,there were those who spoke about philosophies of nature,how bird-watching apparently has the effects of meditation,and how conservation could be boosted by birders who could also be good revenue sources.

Ted Floyd of the American Birding Association pointed out how popular interest in birds could save them. He said that North America’s Bald Eagle — a symbol of power,survival and the wilderness — exists today only due to the efforts of human beings. “Almost each of these birds is fitted with radio rings and collars,” he said. The same may be true for many of the 502 species of birds recorded in the state. The Great Indian Bustard and the Lesser Florican have been targets of efforts while reports about the electrocution and poaching of birds who migrate here often shock many.

Nevertheless,the variety of bird species in Gujarat continues. Wetlands International’s Bharat Jethva said that the group he travelled with to central Gujarat over the weekend spotted 187 species in a single day. They also saw 175 sarus cranes at 156 locations,he added.

The revenues this newfound avenue could generate remains unclear,but the signs from foreign countries points towards the light; there are nine million American birders who spend more than 50 days per year in the activity,Costa Rica shovels in 41 percent of the entire tourism flow,and groups such as the Royal Society for Protection of Birds has more than a million members.

But even the man who presented these figures — Duncan Pritchard,a known avitourism veteran from South Africa — cautioned birders may not be the biggest revenue generators in the industry; they prefer watching birds to shopping,travel in small groups rather than in large ones,and seldom return to the same place as they look for new places with new kinds of birds,he said. So he offered ways to make this kind of tourism sustainable — a focus on ‘interested’ birders,developing the domestic market and involving local guides.

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