Nature wins in virus crisis

Nature wins in virus crisis

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought severe losses to the economy and been a serious threat to human health. However, the lockdown is a blessing in disguise for nature and ecology in Thailand.

Over two months of travelling and tourism restrictions, the ecology and environment in several parts of the country seem to have recovered. Many rarely-seen creatures showed up in areas normally flocked to by tourists. They include hornbills at Khao Yai National Park in Nakhon Ratchasima and a family of aptly named spectacled langur or dusky langur at Mu Koh Angthong National Marine Park in Surat Thani.

About 20 blacktip reef sharks were spotted and video-taped by park officials near Ta-chai beach in Mu Koh Similan Marine National Park, and some 17 bottlenose dolphins were seen in the waters off Phuket.

Khao Lampi–Hat Thai Mueang National Park in Phang-nga reported hatchings of leatherback turtle eggs on a beach in front of Thai Mueang Industrial and Community Education College.

Apart from these species, bantengs, wild elephants, mountain goats, tigers and killer whales have been spotted in various areas.

The appearance of these creatures is evidence that nature and ecology in several tourist attractions have revived when there were no tourists during the period of lockdown.

It is good to hear from Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varavuth Silpa-archa that his ministry is considering closing the country's 157 national parks for three months each year to allow the ecology and environment to improve.

The minister said the idea derives from the re-emergence of many rarely-seen wildlife animals during the past two months when all parks were declared off-limits to visitors as part of the country's restriction measures to fight the virus outbreak.

This is a good initiative that should receive full support. Still, closing national parks for three months may be not enough to ensure sustainable protection of the environment and ecology.

Imagine large crowds of tourists packing in each famous tourist destination for the remainder of the year after the three months of closure. How large can the scale of ecological impact be expected to be?

A "new normal" should be applied for post Covid-19 tourism management, particularly for ecologically sensitive tourism destinations. Whenever tourists are allowed to visit, numbers should be limited for ecologically sensitive destinations.

Environmental orientation and ecotourism awareness among tourists and residents must be promoted. Goal achievement and policy priorities should shift from focusing on tourist quantity to tourist quality. Let's focus on small groups of tourists rather than large groups.

Still, balancing between economic interests and ecology protection should be a strong focus. Timetables for the closure of each national park must be carefully considered to avoid negative impacts on local economies.

And ecotourism should be applied to other major tourist attractions apart from national parks. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, tourism numbers reached 39.7 million in 2019 and continued to grow.

Without new approaches to manage tourism activities, such overcapacity conditions would re-emerge and it will severely harm the travel experience and the tourism sites, as well as the environment and ecology.

Recovery will take a long time -- it may even be impossible.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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