Ecotourism, conservation, and sustainability: A case study of the Camrose Purple Martin Festival

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Hvenegaard, Glen T.
Kaiser, Alanna N.
The Purple Martin Festival is an annual, one-day celebration of Purple Martins (a bird species in decline across North America) that takes place annually in Camrose, Alberta, Canada. In 2002, Purple Martins were chosen as a flagship species by a local conservation organization, and have since become the focus of widespread research and conservation efforts, as well as a community-based Martin nest box landlord program. The Purple Martin Festival serves as the culmination of these efforts each year, and brings together a diverse group of stakeholders involved in various aspects of Martin conservation. This paper demonstrates how the festival has key implications for social, economic, and environmental sustainability related to Purple Martins, and reflects the growing body of research indicating the positive impacts that ecotourism, specifically wildlife festivals, can have on a local community. The festival’s connections to sustainability are supported by an annual Martin survey that tracks the status of the local Martin populations over time, and a participant survey that tracks visitor experiences and dynamics at the Purple Martin Festival each year. Key mechanisms for success of the annual festival and its subsequent implications for sustainability and conservation include establishing a notable public profile, engaging in baseline research, and ensuring stakeholder involvement, particularly in the form of citizen science. The Purple Martin Festival is an example of an innovative conduit between theory and practice; the choice of Purple Martins as a flagship species served as the impetus for notable gains made in all areas of sustainability related to Purple Martin conservation, leading to the formation of the Purple Martin Festival, which continues to serve as the backbone of a network of Martin enthusiasts, Camrose-based Martin research, and overall local environmental stewardship, sustainability, and conservation.
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