In the spring of 2018 the Pan Verus Project will look into the ways that humans and wildlife interact in a human-dominated landscape. Our team will be researching the three-fold interface of local communities, wildlife and tourists, assessing their overlapping use of forest resources and deciphering the costs and benefits to each of them. This research will provide a usable database that details current ecotourism in the park and suggestions for future management plans for the Outamba Kilimi National Park.
Prior to the civil war in Sierra Leone (1991-2002) tourism was a major generator of foreign exchange revenues; in 1986 Sierra Leone had approximately 75,000 tourists, 25% of them on business, in 2009 this had dropped to 44,000 and a stark 90% of them were business travelers. “According to the World Bank Diagnostic Trade and Integration Study (2006), the tourism industry in Sierra Leone has the potential of growing up to US$ 150-200 million by 2015 provided that the beach sub-sector – once uprooted by the conflict – is re-established” (Shakya, 2009, 3). Shakya’s research found that the Sierra Leonean government was aiming to develop nature-based tourism sites including OKNP. She predicted that with the appropriate institutional capacity it could be possible to develop ecotourism initiatives, providing environmental conservation and ownership by the local people were considered.
For ecotourism to be successful, appropriate management of three interconnected aspects are necessary: biodiversity conservation, policy and planning, and local communities. One way to enable this is community-based ecotourism. If these programmes are successful they can influence conservation decision making and if these work, sustainable economic benefits are felt by the local community.