Sustainable close encounters: integrating tourist and animal behaviour to improve rhinoceros viewing protocols

J. R. Muntifering, W. L. Linklater, R. Naidoo, S. !Uri-≠Khob, P. D. Preez, P. Beytell, S. Jacobs, A. T. Knight

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Citations (Scopus)


Tourism may benefit conservation, but some wildlife viewing practices threaten the sustainability of both business and conservation initiatives. In north-west Namibia, conservation-oriented tourism provides tourists with an opportunity to encounter the critically-endangered black rhinoceros Diceros bicornis on foot. We used 123 tourist-rhinoceros encounters and employed a statistical modeling approach to: (1) identify the characteristics of human-rhinoceros encounters that caused rhinoceros disturbance and displacement; and (2) design rhinoceros-human encounter guidelines that improve sustainability. A model-averaging, information-theoretic approach identified tourist approach distance, viewing time and individual encounter exposure as the most significant predictors of rhinoceros disturbance level. A suite of rhinoceros viewing scenarios were modeled for acceptable disturbance risks, and adopted as a rhinoceros viewing policy. The policy reduced encounter displacements by 80% while maintaining a 95% positive feedback rating from guests. We demonstrate an evidence-based, policy-oriented management approach can help improve tourism's contribution towards the conservation of an endangered species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-197
Number of pages9
JournalAnimal Conservation
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes

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