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Biodiversity is facing a rapid decrease due to human activity, and this era is considered as the sixth mass extinction (Ceballos et al, 2015; Pimm et al, 1995; Wake et al, 2008). Overall, 79 800 species is listed on the international red list, and more than 23 000 is threatened by extinction (IUCN official website, 2017-03-13). This is mainly because of habitat loss, fragmentation, climate change, poaching and pollutions (Ceballos et al 2015; Brooks et al, 2002; Sergio et al, 2005; Wake et al, 2008). Top predators play a vital role in the food webs, typically having a top-down control and maintaining ecological functions. They are therefore often focused upon in the field of conservation (Letnic et al, 2012; Sergio et al, 2005; Ripple et al, 2014).

Even so, top predators are now undergoing a rapid decrease, and among the 31 largest carnivores (in the families Ursidae, Mustelidae, Hyaenidae, Canidae and Felidae), 61 % are listed as either vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered (Ripple et al, 2014). Top predators are usually more sensitive and are thereby the first to go extinct in a system, as they are less diverse, require big intact areas, are less abundant and under large anthropogenic pressure (Duffy, 2002). One of these top predators that is suffering from human activity is the tiger (Phantera tigris), which is endangered according to the IUCN Red lists (Goodrich et al, 2015). In Cambodia, the tiger population is considered functionally extinct (Launay et al, 2012), but a re-introduction is being considered (Administration Forestry, 2011; Launay et al, 2012). In the east of Cambodia lies Eastern Plains Landscape (EPL), which has been pointed out as the most suitable site for a tiger re-introduction (Launay et al, 2012; WWF, 2016). This landscape includes the province Mondulkiri and is famous for its ecotourism and ethical elephant tourism, as well as its rich nature and biodiversity (Launay et al, 2012; Mondulkiri Provincial Department of Tourism, 2013; MoT, 2012). It is also where the last tiger in Cambodia were recorded, in 2007 (Launay et al, 2012; O’Kelly et al, 2012; WWF, 2016).

To successfully re-introduce tigers would carry a cost and affect the local economy, as an increased law enforcement, education and management has to take place (CA|TS Manual; 2016). One of the main reason for the tigers to go extinct is because of the human activities, including a high hunting pressure, which leads to a higher rate of tigers being killed than being born (Goodrich  et al, 2011; Walston et al, 2010; ). The high prices for tiger parts make them vulnerable in a poor country with lacking law enforcement. Tiger skin has an estimated value of  $20 000 on the black market (Douglas & Alie, 2014). The conservation costs of the protected areas supporting endangered species with a commercial use is generally high and it is estimated that a Tiger Source site with a strict law enforcement and patrolling costs  $10 per hectare (Walston et al, 2010).  

Even so, tigers can be considered an ecosystem service, with both non-use and use values (MEA, 2005; Verma et al, 2015). One of the ecosystem services that tigers provide is the recreational value; people value the opportunity to see tigers, their home range, or just the thought of the tigers existing (Verma et al, 2015). A tiger re-introduction would potentially bring job opportunities and contribute to the local economy linked to tiger tourism (Groot et al, 2002; Gössling, 1999; Scheyvens, 1999; Verma et al, 2015).

As a tiger re-introduction is being planned in EPL, it is interesting to investigate whether ecotourism can play a role in the conservation and its funding. As there is no tiger tourism present in Cambodia to investigate and compare to, the potential market must be looked upon in other ways. One way of doing this is by investigate people’s stated willingness to pay. In this study, open ended contingent valuation method as well as choice experiment method have been used. This was done using surveys and questionnaires. Specifically, the following questions were targeted:

  • What is the present tourist profile in Mondulkiri? 
  • What is the present opinions about the tourism in Mondulkiri among tourists
  • What is the willingness to pay for a tiger tourism activity in Mondulkiri?
  • What is the willingness to pay for different managements, including attributes such as education, rangers and number of tigers?

Responsible for this page: Agneta Johansson
Last updated: 04/27/17