For many years and to this day La Senda Verde has depended on foreign travellers visiting Bolivia to sustain itself and the more than 700 animals living there today. Family members of Vicky and Marcelo, LSV’s owners, have had to donate constructions they had built for themselves at LSV so they could be used as cabins for rental for the sake of the sustainability of the sanctuary.
It was a good sustenance strategy in the situation that there are no public funds being destined to support this wildlife refuge from any government institution; and given the privileged location of the sanctuary, at the end of the world’s most dangerous road, one of the countries most visited tourist attractions.
But nobody thought that such a beautiful and harmless economical activity, such as ecotourism, would become a major threat to the interests of the current Bolivian government. The economy generated by people visiting natural places is by no means comparable to the amount of money that can be made by exploiting the natural resources found there.
There has been a series of measures taken by the government that have lacerated ecotourism in Bolivia a great deal in the last three years, reducing affluence to some destinations by up to 50% in 2017 compared to 2014. Some of the measures taken by the government that directly and indirectly lacerate the affluence of tourists to the country include:
- Presidential decree no. 2366 that opens National parks to natural resource exploration.
- A reduction of the already low budget for park keepers and the SERNAP (National administration of protected areas).
- Mining Law no.845 that protects mining interests over environmental and human rights.
- Coca leaf law project that seeks to expand amount of hectares destined to cultivation of this plant in non traditional regions.
- Law project that seeks to abolish intangibility status in national parks so a mayor road can be built inside Isiboro Secure National Park.
- San Buenaventura sugar factory built just outside Madidi National Park, with 1,200 hectares of forest loss in 3 years.
- Lack of tourism incentive and investment from the government, being the fact that the national budget has increased in the last decade.
- Restrictions on Israeli tourists because of political reasons.
- New Visa requirement for american tourists, because of political reasons. This measure reduced american tourist affluence in 50%
The list can go on. Senda Verde has been hit hard these last years, not just because affluence of international tourism is much lower, but because more animals are coming in from the more intense habitat loss produced these last years. These animals have to eat, new ones need new enclosures, waiting for better days is not an option. That’s why Vicky, Marcelo and the whole LSV team have already begun seeking new sources of financing.
―”We are betting on education” says Vicky, this time referring to it not as a way of fighting wildlife crime, but as a mean to produce sustenance funds for La Senda Verde. “We are creating a masters degree program with a university, so people can come study here”.
LSV has compensated the lower tourism influx by promoting more visits from local Bolivian schools and by crowdfunding. It still is not enough, Senda Verde is in debt and needs to look elsewhere, search for ways to sustain itself and to gain grounds in the fight against wildlife crime. “We need to change strategies” Vicky adds.