In 2005, I interned at the School for Field Studies (SFS) Center for Wildlife Management campus in Kenya. This position gave me the opportunity to study tourists’ perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors when viewing wildlife in Amboseli National Park, Kenya in collaboration with the wildlife management professor, Dr. Moses Okello. Kenya’s tourism industry highlights the importance of Africa’s “Big Five” which includes the African lion, leopard, rhinoceros (either black or white species), African savanna elephant, and cape buffalo. However, when driving around the parks in Kenya and talking to tourists and students that are part of our program, this may not necessarily reflect the most important species to Kenya tourists. As tourism is fragile, and some of the Big Five species are difficult to view due to elusive behavior (leopards), or severe decline (rhinos, which are currently extirpated from Amboseli and many Kenyan parks), it would be wise for Kenya to target tourist materials to species that offer high tourism satisfaction and have a relatively high ease of viewing. Therefore, we conducted a study with students in the SFS program based on tourism behaviors and responses towards wildlife in Amboseli.
Kenya's Big Five - African savanna elephant, African lion, rhinoceros (black and white species), leopard, and cape buffalo.
The first part of the study consisted of observing tourists in the park. We followed tourism vehicles and noted what species they stopped for, how long the stopped, how many individuals were present, and the behavior of the individuals. The second part of the study involved recording direct responses from tourists at a tourist lodge in Amboseli about their expectations of wildlife viewing in Kenya, and if those expectations were met or changed. Through these studies we found that tourists do not necessarily prefer Big Five Species, many other wildlife species are preferred as much or more than some Big Five species, and that the local Maasai culture and landscapes (Mt. Kilimanjaro) are also valuable to the tourism experience. Read the full results in Tourism Analysis and Tourism Management.
Other wildlife, cultural, and natural features important to tourists - cheetahs, giraffes, Maasai culture, Mt. Kilimanjaro, hyenas.
Photos courtesy of SFS alumni including Katie Long, Bridget Valdez-Kogle, Megan McSherry, Jessica Flaherty, and Sarah Parmer.