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Abstract

Arguments of most conservationists supporting ecotourism have been based upon the views that it is environmentally friendly as a resource-use and that receipts from it can counter demands to use the natural resources involved for more extractive economic purposes. But wildlife-based ecotourism can also have positive impacts in itself on the willingness of tourists to pay for wildlife conservation, strengthen the pro-conservation attitudes of tourists and foster personal actions by them which contribute to wildlife conservation. These aspects are explored in this article on the basis of a survey of tourists visiting Mon Repos Beach near Bundaberg, Queensland for the purpose of watching marine turtles. The results enable several of the conservation impacts of this experience on tourists to be quantified, and highlight important relationships between specific socio-economic variables and willingness of tourists to pay for the protection of sea turtles. Furthermore, it is shown that the on-site experiences of ecotourists have positive impacts on the willingness of tourists to pay for the conservation of wildlife, and that willingness to pay is sensitive to whether wildlife is seen or not. It is suggested that in situ ecotourism is likely to be a more powerful force for fostering pro-conservation attitudes and actions amongst visitors than ex situ wildlife-based tourism in aquaria and zoos.

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