Threatened Species Rely On Ecotourism To Survive. So What Happens When The Tourists Stop Coming?

Most years, the Beaufort Sea is freezing over by November and a busy season of polar bear viewing is winding down in the Arctic. As the ice takes hold, the flow of tourists slows to a trickle in the Inupiaq village of Kaktovik on the northern coast of Alaska. Its two unassuming hotels grow quiet and wilderness guides like Robert Thompson pull their boats onto dry land.

“We used to have 1,500 people a year coming to see the bears,” said Thompson, an Inupiaq local who leads polar bear tours around Kaktovik and rafting trips through the nearby Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

But not this year. “Because of the virus, local people don’t want them,” he said.


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