Illuminating Local Perceptions of Sea Turtle Conservation Practices in St. Kitts
Ecotourism is a popular tool for the conservation of fragile ecosystems and local development of the communities surrounding them. It has long been argued that the key to effective and sustainable
ecotourism programs relies on the depth of community involvement and support. This research reveals
a better understanding of community members’ perceptions of ecotourism and conservation, and how
these perceptions potentially influences participation in such practices as it relates to sea turtles within
two villages located on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts.
Data were collected through several qualitative methods including: face-to-face surveys with Cayon
and Keys villagers; interviews with government workers, staff and members of the St. Kitts Sea Turtle
Monitoring Network and UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Reserve; and participant observation of
sea turtle ecotourism activities as well as community and organization meetings.
The community surveys revealed that local people perceived ecotourism on St. Kitts as being beneficial
to specific groups of people, namely those in government, those who work in the industry, and tourists.
Community members perceived poor people, people who do not work in tourism, and the local
environment as being negatively impacted by ecotourism activities.
Furthermore, issues such as environmental apathy or disinterest in conservation of resources such as
turtles, as well as a pervasive distrust in the government were shown to exist among residents of Keys
and Cayon that work as barriers towards support and participation in ecotourism activities.
The results of this research highlight these challenges and suggest a focus on understanding community
concerns and needs, while building participation from already established community groups and