Birding and birding-related tourism are growing at an unprecedented rate on a global level. Despite an abundance of natural birding assets, South Africa has yet to realise its full potential when it comes to birding tourism.
Birding tourism has important conservation and community benefits as well as significant economic spinoffs for South Africa and BirdLife South Africa is assisting the country in achieving these.Birders are typically affluent, well educated, eco-minded and travel widely in the pursuit of their hobby.
Their use of community guides in the pursuit of their hobby has the potential for significant community gains whilst their support of conservation organisations bodes well for the future protection of habitats and species.Birding tourism has proven to be worth significant economic value in certain countries.
According to a paper published by Cagan Sekercioglu in 2002, Costa Rica enjoyed an annual economic windfall of USD400 million due to birding tourism. South Africa has an enviable combination of different biomes, high bird species diversity, the presence of 122 important bird areas, well developed birding routes and birding facilities.
The 900 bird species that can be found in Southern Africa amounts to some 35% of Africa's bird species of which 52 are endemic to South Africa.South Africa could be in the prime position to attract large numbers of foreign birders to our shores.
However, according to Martin Taylor of BirdLife South Africa, this is not the case. An ongoing research project being undertaken by the Department of Trade and Industry has indicated that birding tourism in South Africa is in its infancy and there is room for significant growth in the market.