ABSTRACT

Worldwide, the ecotourism industry aggressively appropriates and commodifies Indigenous cultures. Land rights are maligned, ceremonies are mocked, millennial arts are debased and healing practices are pirated. In the name of biodiversity conservation, 'traditional knowledge' is celebrated, then spirited away to be repackaged for global markets. This plundering has resulted in animated debate on the subject of intellectual property. The intellectual property rights (IPRs) regime of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) offers no solutions for this dilemma in ecotourism. Sacred elements of culture are being misappropriated whether they qualify for IPRs 'protection' or not. IPRs neither recognize, nor safeguard, 'property' that is collective and spiritual in nature. Tourism is the largest and fastest-growing industry in the world. Projected rates of growth for ecotourism signal increased pressure on isolated Indigenous People, many of whom have little chance of withstanding the ecotourism onslaught, let alone challenging industry practices.