A preliminary report on visitor use in Amboseli National Park
Henry, Wesley R.
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In Kenya, as in many other countries, tourism is beginning to have an adverse effect on national parks and reserves. Because of the ecological and economic importance of these areas, the interests of conservation and tourism need to be reconciled through a careful program of planning, research and management. To off-set a critical lack of management information on visitors’ and their use of wildlife areas, this study in Amboseli was designed to examine visitors' behaviour and use, temporal and spatial variations in use, and the impact of that use. Results showed that there were very considerable daily, monthly, and seasonal visitor/vehicle entry rates' which have the potential of greatly reducing, the capacity of the park for tourist use and compounding other park problems. However, the fast turn-aver of visitors greatly increased the capacity of the park; and because of the way the park was used on a daily basis; use was actually much less than might have been expected. The very poor spatial distribution of vehicle use was largely the result of visitors' predator specific viewing pattern. Because of a limited number of lion and a decreasing number of cheetah, this pattern of use will probably be the most critical limiting factor on Amboseli's capacity for tourism. The impact of vehicle use is not yet fully understood, but the study added much insight on the problem. Off-road driving very likely has a considerable impact on vegetation and soils. Half of Amboseli's visitors are exposed to high vehicle densities while viewing cheetah which may have an adverse effect on their viewing enjoyment. Of more immediate concern is the fact that the activity pattern of cheetah also appeared to be adversely affected. The ecological and economic consequences of not solving the problem of vehicles concentrating around predators will be quite serious, but more information will be needed to design effective tourist management plan.