The effects of tourist and boat traffic on parrot geophagy in lowland Peru
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2017 The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation Ecotourism generates important revenue in many developing economies, but poorly regulated ecotourism can threaten the long-term viability of key biological resources. We determined the effects of tourism, boat traffic, and natural disturbances on parrot geophagy (soil consumption) across seven riverine claylicks in the lowlands of Madre de Dios, Peru. Claylick use significantly decreased when visitors did not follow good practice guidelines and tourist numbers exceeded the capacity of the observation blinds. Otherwise, tourist presence and natural disturbance did not have a significant effect. However, large macaws, particularly Red-and-green Macaws (Ara chloropterus), avoided visiting claylicks during periods of peak tourist numbers. Where parrots had multiple geophagy sites to choose from, they preferred sites further from tourist groups. The effect of boat disturbance was greatest on a narrow river with infrequent boat events. On a wider river with heavier traffic, boat disturbance had less of an effect and this effect was inversely proportional to the distance of boats from the claylick. Where visitors followed good-practice tourism guidelines, they had a low overall negative effect on parrot geophagy. We recommend that visitors respect the claylick observation guidelines to minimize anthropogenic disturbance on parrots and maintain these sites for the benefit of wildlife and humans alike.