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Agius, K., Theuma, N. and Deidun, A. (2018).Xjenza Online, 6:153–164.

           Xjenza Online - Science Journal of the Malta Chamber of Scientists
           DOI: 10.7423/XJENZA.2018.2.08

           Research Report

           Does Absence of Charismatic Species Impact the Ecotourism Potential
           of Central Mediterranean Islands?

           Karl Agius , Nadia Theuma and Alan Deidun       2
           1 Institute for Tourism, Travel and Culture, University of Malta, Msida, Malta
           2 Department of Geosciences, University of Malta, Msida, Malta

           Abstract. Central Mediterranean Islands tend to be  Abbreviations
           devoid of large terrestrial charismatic fauna which usu-
                                                              Marine Protected Areas = MPAs; NGOs = Non-
           ally serve as target species for ecotourism. This has
                                                              Governmental Organisations; 3S = Sand, Sun and Sea
           raised questions on the potential of ecotourism in such
           destinations. However it has been argued that absence  1  Introduction
           of charismatic megafauna should not be considered as a
           limitation. Ecotours were organised on nine islands in  Charismatic megafauna are arguably considered im-
           the central Mediterranean region. Interviews and focus  portant to motivate ecotourists to visit protected areas
           groups were held with participants of the ecotours and  (Skibins, Powell & Hallo, 2013). Such species tend to
           stakeholders. It has been argued that most charismatic  be terrestrial mammals and normally serve a flagship
           species are marine, touting marine ecotourism as the  role engaging in both ecotourism and conservation cam-
           ideal tourism product. Furthermore, rather than focus-  paigns (Albert, Luque & Courchamp, 2018; Lindsey,
           ing on charismatic species, the ecotourism product on  Alexander, Mills, Roma˜nach & Woodroffe, 2007; Veris-
           such islands should revolve around the various coastal  simo, Fraser, Groombridge, Bristol & MacMillan, 2009).
           environments and habitats and other smaller species in-  Mammal faunas on Mediterranean islands experi-
           cluding non-mammals, especially endemic ones thus fa-  enced almost complete extinction due to human colon-
           cilitating a broader approach to conservation. Owing  isation (Blondel & Vigne, 1993; Sch¨ule, 1993). Whereas
           to the remarkable biodiversity of plant species, charis-  humans have actively introduced new faunistic elements
           matic megaflora and plants have also been identified as  on Mediterranean islands (Gippoliti & Amori, 2006;
           important targets for ecotourism. Furthermore, due to  Schembri, 2003) few endemic terrestrial mammals still
           the intense environmental pressure and limited size of  survive in Mediterranean islands (Blondel & Vigne,
           protected areas the overlap with cultural, rural and ad-  1993). One example is the shrew (Crocidura sicula)
           venture tourism has been suggested. In order for the  which is found on the islands of Sicily, Levanzo, Favign-
           ecotourism product to be more competitive archipelago  ana, Marettimo, Ustica and Gozo (Sar`a, 1998). Hence,
           tourism also referred to as island hopping is also recom-  terrestrial charismatic megafauna, including large mam-
           mended, a proposal which is supported by the presence  mals, are lacking from central Mediterranean islands.
           of endemic and sub-endemic species. Results show that  This has raised questions on the potential of protected
           absence of charismatic species does not limit ecotourism  areas situated on Mediterranean islands to attract eco-
           development on such islands.                       tourists. Furthermore, owing to the lack of charismatic
                                                              megafauna, the possibility of applying the concept of
           Keywords: Charismatic species, ecotourism, central  flagship species (used in other regions for biodiversity
           Mediterranean, islands, conservation               conservation) on islands has been described as problem-
                                                              atic (Verissimo et al., 2009).
                                                                However, research has criticised the mammal-centric
                                                              approach and focus on charismatic megafauna (En-
                                                              twistle, 2000).  Questions have also been raised on

           *Correspondence to: Karl Agius (
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