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Photos | The Jaguar Ecological Preserve | Ecotourism & Biodiversity Preservation
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Ecotourism & Biodiversity PreservationEcotourism can be used to both employ Pantaneiros and raise money to convert more land to reserve status. A considerable effort is being undertaken to make tourism an ally in biodiversity conservation, but current economics are stopping ecotourism from fulfilling its potential. Most tour profits stay with the company that sells the tours. They have to, if the company is going to stay in business.

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A much smaller portion of the profit goes to companies in the cities where the tourists arrive by air. Vehicles, food, local guides, and other products come from here. Almost none of the profit ends up in the hands of the people that live in or near, and ultimately control, the biodiversity that tourists go to see. This equation needs to be reversed if ecotourism is going to play a significant role in biodiversity protection.

To do this, the local people need to own the tourism. They need to own comfortable lodges that will attract customers. They need to speak fluent English, and be trained as guides capable of guiding the most demanding naturalists and bird watchers. They must own their own vehicles so that they provide the service of picking people up from the airport. They must have web sites that will attract clients, and have prices that provide a commission for travel agents. With this, all of the profits, except the commissions, will stay in the community where the biodiversity is. A clear reason to preserve this biodiversity will be obvious.

The Focus Conservation Fund, together with Focus Tours, Inc., has financed a simple lodge at the Jaguar Ecological Reserve. We currently have a comfortable 20-room lodge, staffed by well-trained Pantaneiros. This will bring Pantaneiro youth back to the Pantanal. The project will be primarily Pantaneiro owned, with the Focus Conservation Fund as the minority partner. Profits raised the FCF will be used to fund other reserves.

The result will be Pantaneiros continuing to live in the Pantanal, earning a fair living and protecting their habitat. It will be difficult for land squatters to invade, a problem facing many forested areas. The alternative is large-scale cattle ranches where rainforests now stand.

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