By : R. M. Wasantha Rathnayake
Turtles at the Rekawa sanctuary in Sri Lanka are under threat due to ongoing illegal activities such as killing turtles for meat, egg collection for sale, and the use of turtle shells to make products for markets. This study estimates the entrance fee that can be charged to visitors for ‘turtle watching' to ascertain whether revenues from such fees can be used to compensate fishermen and reduce such illegal activities. We carried out a contingent valuation study at the Rekawa sanctuary and Bundala and Yala national parks to examine the foreign and local visitors' willingness to pay (WTP) for turtle conservation under two different management scenarios. Scenario 1 sought to ascertain visitor preferences if visitor services were improved, while Scenario 2 focused on both visitor services and potential conservation initiatives. The findings suggest that a majority (63%) of visitors are willing to pay an entrance fee, which can be used for protecting turtles and improving visitor facilities at Rekawa. The estimated mean WTP per visit for local visitors was LKR 93 (USD 0.73) and LKR 143 (USD 1.12) for Scenarios 1 and 2, respectively, while the mean WTP of foreign visitors was USD 15 and USD 19 for Scenarios 1 and 2, respectively. Further, if we implement scenarios 1 and 2, annual revenue would increase by LKR 70 million and LKR 50 million respectively. These results, which suggest potentially huge gains in revenue, can be used to re-design entry fees for the Rekawa sanctuary and secure the cooperation of low income fishermen in turtle conservation.
Keywords :Turtles, Willingness to pay, Revenue changes, Turtle watching, Conservation, Rekawa, Sri Lanka
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