Glen Hvenegaard, environmental studies professor at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus, is researching whether these festivals actually help the species and ecosystems they celebrate.
“We make a broad assumption that ecotourism and wildlife festivals are good,” says Hvenegaard, “but if they are good, how are they good and what impact do they have? How can they improve?”
Hvenegaard is investigating whether festivals, like the Swan Festival in Grande Prairie or the Salmon Celebration in Vancouver, manage their own waste appropriately, promote safe wildlife-watching etiquette and guarantee that the proceeds will be used to preserve the habitat. His studies so far have shown that festivals benefit greatly from sharing information and practices with each other, but his overarching perspective is that these festivals need to be certified and accountable for their conservation efforts.
There were 10 North American wildlife festivals in 1992, and, by 2002, there were 240. There were 80 in Canada last year, and Alberta will celebrate 13 of its own in 2010. Hvenegaard wants to make sure that the ecosystems receive the protection they deserve, that festivals share successful ideas and policies, and consumers know what to look for in a well-managed wildlife festival.