The role of conservation research and education centers in growing nature-based tourism

Richard Edwards, Eric Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


There are increasing numbers of private (nonprofit and for-profit) centers that carry out conservation research and education in locations of environmental concern. Such centers generate revenue streams that directly support conservation programs and also sustain surrounding human communities. This paper assesses the size of the centers' economic impacts. We conducted separate studies of the economic impacts of the Cheetah Conservation Fund ( Namibia) and (jointly) the Rowe Bird Sanctuary and Whooping Crane Trust (central Nebraska. USA). We collected data on direct expenditures and surveyed visitors and volunteers on their spending. For the Cheetah Conservation Fund, we estimate total economic impact using a Social Accounting Matrix developed for Namibia to determine appropriate multipliers. For the Rowe Sanctuary and the Whooping Crane Trust, we employ the IMPLAN Pro modeling software. We find that the Cheetah Conservation Fund generates a total economic impact of US$4.13 million per year and Rowe Sanctuary/Whooping Crane Trust generates US$3.80 million annually; the former sustains 177 jobs and the latter creates 63 jobs. Are such impacts significant? Two considerations suggest they are. First, such centers tend to be located in remote, usually rural areas where even small impacts may be important in sustaining local human communities. Second, for Africa alone we identified some 352 active conservation centers (undoubtedly a large undercount). so if on average each had an economic impact equal to that of Cheetah Conservation Fund, their combined impact would total about $1.5 billion per year.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-70
Number of pages20
JournalGreat Plains Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2010


  • Cheetah
  • Conservation
  • Economic impact
  • Ecotourism
  • Education center
  • Research center
  • Rowe
  • Whooping crane

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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