© Zdeno Ziman
Ivana Resutikova is a wildlife guide from the Horehronie region (Slovakia), an area where large carnivores always have been present. But she considers their presence not as a threat but as an opportunity for the region.
"Large carnivores are the essence of the wilderness and an opportunity for the development of tourism, wildlife observation programs and environmental education,"
says Ivana Resutikova, hiking guide from Telgárt.
“When I talk to shepherds and mountain owners, of course, they agree with the regulation of large carnivores. And there is room for state to support them in protecting of their herds and to educate people,”
says Ivana Resutikova. The approach of people who are just coming to region as tourists are different.
“For ordinary tourists, beasts are associated with fear on the one hand, but with interest on the other. If they have the opportunity to go to the forest with a guide who knows how to behave safely and allows them to see nature from a different than normal perspective, then it is an adventure.”
“People are mostly used to go for a trip to nature exclusively on a marked hiking trails, although we almost always have a phone with GPS in our pocket. Concerns related to large carnivores are often supported by the media, which report on how dangerous they are,”
says Ivana Resutikova.
“Of course, the frequency of bears is higher in Horehronie region, and problematic bears may occur close to mountain hotels due to unsecured waste. However, if a person goes into the forest and behave responsibly, he will not even see the bear.”
Ivana Resutikova offers tours in the wildlife during which visitors can observe large carnivores or at least their tracks and learn about their life.
“Especially urban people and families with children are interested in such trips into the wilderness. For parents with children, such activities provide mutual benefits - education and adventure. Our generation was not very effectively educated about nature and ecology in childhood and today's children have much more opportunities and parents are interested in raining awareness of their kids.”
But in Slovakia still more people in regions rely on traditional way of earning money and traditional use of natural resources, such as wood harvesting or hunting. Most of small local service providers today see potential especially in accommodation. They rent a cottage, but are not familiar of the opportunities in providing additional services. Those services often mean uncertainty and financial instability.
“It is important to talk to local people, and use examples that are directly related to the region. To show people what you do and explain to them that if they join, they can also make money. Life in the regions is still largely conservative, so changing the paradigm is a challenge for younger people. Natural tourism has a long way to go in Slovakia, “
says Ivana Resutikova.
Tourism is an activity that bring society closer to large carnivores and increase the real knowledge on the species among citizens. When the participants observe these animals in the wild, a bond is created and the awareness of the needs and the lifestyle of the animals is rising. For some, this experience is a dream come true. There are a lot of different activities that can be offered: photo tourism, talks, field trips with biological materials (skulls and skins), tracking courses or observation trips. Also a visit to a shepherd and other people who have historically shared the territory can be arranged to let the public know.
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From my point of view, the attitude toward opportunities and potential which nature offers local people is gradually changing. I meet more and more people who return in the region with the intention to stay and live here, because life in cities did not bring them what they expected. And these people are like a fresh wind bringing new ideas. So the trend is positive, but change is coming slowly,”
says Ivana. But she expects growing interest for sustainable tourism and sustainable regional development which can help to change the local people attitude.
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