Estimating the value of natural characteristics of a National Park: the case of Mokala National Park in South Africa

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Kriek, Carel Johannes
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African Economic Research Consortium
Due to the extreme decimation of species worldwide, there is a need to conserve and protect more natural areas and biodiversity. A way to ensure species' survival across areas, is to rewild a protected area or nature reserve by reintroducing regionally extinct fauna and flora, or removing invasive species. In developing countries, these protected areas are generally underfunded and underdeveloped, and therefore may have limited capacity to conserve the wildlife, and/or rewild the park to its previous natural state. This study utilised a discrete choice experiment to determine the preferences and ‘appreciative value’ tourists place on different natural characteristics of the park, in the context of rewilding. This study analysed the responses of 288 tourists from Mokala National Park in the Northern Cape, South Africa, using online questionnaires. The respondent's preferences were drawn from the completed questionnaires by the tourists who have visited the park since its inception in 2007. The natural characteristics ranged from (1) reintroducing carnivores such as lions or cheetahs back into the park, (2) removing non-native species, whether threatened or non-threatened, and (3) boosting endangered species populations such as roan antelope, black rhino and tsessebe. A latent class model was created to identify heterogeneity in the preferences amongst the sampled population. It was determined that there is heterogeneity and that the sampled tourists had varying preferences to rewild the national park to its previous biological state. Respondents of the four classes, strongly preferred reintroducing cheetahs back into the park above a pride of lions. All classes had significant preference for boosting the numbers of endangered black rhinos compared to the status quo. Only 11.20% of the respondents wanted to completely rewild the park by removing the non-native species and reintroducing all the other species identified. Thus, 88.20% of respondents did not support removing the non-native species regardless of their status, either threatened (sable antelope) or non-threatened (impala, nyala and waterbuck). The results provide a basis that rewilding improvements could be initiated, and better park management policies could be implemented, to attract tourists and more successfully rewild the park . Yet, tourists had an affinity for more species diversity in the park above protecting the natural ecosystem. Further research can be done to expand on whether there is a preference for species based on their status, such as being endangered, iconic, carnivore, or megafauna.
Choice experiment, rewilding, Mokala National Park, reintroduce, non-native species, willingness to pay, latent class model