Ecotourism linked to Green Scam

The idea is sound: make people pay to visit environmentally sensitive areas and you can boost the local economy, provide jobs and equipment, and conserve the places you are promoting.

But all is not always what it seems. Traveling through some of these areas is, in itself, destructive. The unique flora and fauna of the Galapagos Islands for example are now considered at risk because of over-visiting by tourists. Will the travel agency tell you that?

Even worse, game reserves, wildlife refuges and other animal spectacles which appeal to environmental enthusiasts have been known to drug or mistreat animals for the benefit of creating the right "shop-front" impression to tourists.

That's not to say you shouldn't visit these places -- just that you should do so with your eyes open and research to make sure that what you're doing doesn't cause more harm than good.

"Companies that are calling themselves ecotourism but hurt the environment or communities . . . our response is that that's not ecotourism," says Ayako Ezaki, communications director of The International Ecotourism Society. So, be careful.

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