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Primate tourism is a recent and growing trend in primate-habitat countries. Many primate tourism operations are outgrowths of community-based conservation initiatives (Hill, 2002) and have been promoted for their potential to achieve conservation goals as well as financial and educational benefits for local communities. One of the earliest and most successful initiatives is the Mountain Gorilla Project in the Virunga Mountains (Harcourt & Stewart, 2007). Gorilla tourism has been credited with bringing an important source of foreign currency to impoverished nations, educational opportunities for local inhabitants, and even increased reproduction in gorilla groups used for tourism (Harcourt & Stewart, 2007; and see Goldsmith, this volume). However, the extent to which many primate tourist operations are meeting these goals is not clear. As a result, conservationists, who were generally enthusiastic and encouraging about establishing primate tourism operations, are sounding more cautious, noting specific examples in which tourism has harmed wild primates, and pointing out that we know little about the impact of tourism on most of the populations it targets (Butynski, 2001). Most agree that we need to do much more research to better understand the ways in which primate tourism affects primate health, behavior, and reproduction. Only then will we be able to make sound recommendations that maximize conservation goals and minimize harm. This chapter reviews some approaches to assessing the effects of tourism on primate populations, presents findings on some of the negative impacts of tourism on a population of Tibetan macaques, and offers several recommendations to reduce these negative impacts both in China and elsewhere.
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