Planning your next ecological holiday has just become that much easier, with both the most famed and the least known of 150,000 world conservation sites now a mere mouse click away, thanks to a new United Nations-backed interactive social media-based website launched today.
Using the latest satellite images, users can pinpoint individual protected areas, such as national parks or marine reserves, from the breathtaking fjords of western Norway to Australia’s only active volcanoes, and zoom in for information on endangered species, native plant life or types of terrain on ProtectedPlanet.net.
Created by the UN Environment Program and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the site provides in-depth information on both the leading lights and hidden gems of the conservation world, allowing visitors to upload photographs of their trips to protected areas, write travelogues for Wikipedia and recommend places of interest nearby, data that can be shared through social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.
This in turn might inspire others to make the journey, thus bringing much needed income to communities in often poor and sometimes remote areas of the globe, UNEP said in a news release. The ecotourism industry is growing fast especially in Latin America and currently captures $77 billion of the global tourism market.
As concern about global warming increases, more tourists than ever are opting for eco-friendly holidays, including visits to protected areas. According to Travel Weekly magazine, sustainable tourism could grow to 25 per cent of the world’s travel market by 2012, taking the value of the sector to approximately $473 billion a year.
Alongside familiar names such as the Serengeti in Tanzania or Yellowstone National Park in the United States, there are thousands of lesser-known sites that attract far fewer visitors. Monte Cristi National Park in the Dominican Republic, for example, is described by travel websites as off the tourist radar.
Yet a quick scan on the site reveals diverse habitats of mangroves and beaches with abundance of bird life, including pink-colored spoonbills, pelicans and the magnificent frigatebird, a species renowned for its scarlet throat pouch that inflates like a balloon during mating season.