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UN taps tourists to help protect migratory birds /, May 12, 2014 Adjust font size:

"Many people want to experience nature when they travel and there are millions of people around the world who are particularly interested in observing birds in their natural surroundings," said Bradnee Chambers, Executive Secretary of CMS.

"Bird-watching is an important component of a global multi-million dollar wildlife-watching industry and provides a significant source of income and employment for a growing number of communities, especially in developing countries," he added.

By providing an adequate framework for sustainable tourism management, diversifying tourism and channelling its revenue back into the conservation of the project sites and the communities around them, Destination Flyways will work to safeguard the birds' habitats, while creating job opportunities for local communities along the flyways.

One of the eight project sites selected for the Destination Flyways project is Lake Natron, in the remote north of Tanzania near the Kenyan border. Home to 75 percent of the world's population of the Lesser Flamingo, Lake Natron is the only breeding ground for this species in East Africa.

For Lake Natron, tourism can be a solution for conservation, provided that local communities are involved in its development and implementation and derive tangible benefits from it. It is, therefore, critical to make sustainable tourism a true long-term alternative to other economic activities, such as the proposed mining of soda ash from the lake, about which serious concerns have been raised because of the potential danger to the flamingo population.

"The UNWTO-led Destination Flyways Project, the inspiration for the 2014 World Migratory Bird Day campaign, is a perfect example of how tourism and biodiversity can benefit from each other. On this World Migratory Bird Day, we invite all to help us turn one billion tourists into one billion opportunities to protect the world's original long-distance travellers," said Mr. Rifai.

"As tourism continues to grow, so too will the pressures on the environment and wildlife. Without proper management and protection, as well as investments in greening the sector, thousands of magnificent species will suffer," said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

He said that the agency has identified tourism as one of the 10 economic sectors best able to contribute to the transition to a sustainable and inclusive green economy. "The Flyways initiative will help to accelerate the transition to the green economy while protecting tourism -- a major source of revenue for many communities -- and the thousands of species it spotlights," he added.

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