A Backpacker’s Guide to Responsible Wildlife Tourism
Posted: Mar 22, 2016
Eco-tourism or wildlife tourism is a very big business with the aggressive marketing by national parks and sanctuaries, zoos and aquariums, rehab centres, and even hawkers selling pictures of animals. While many parks, sanctuaries, reserve forests, and rehabilitation centres are doing a lot of good work to take care of the animals, it is observed that the wildlife tourism industry sometimes ends up doing more harm than good to both animals and their habitats besides the animal conservation movement.
This is the reason why all persons interested in wildlife tourism need to educate themselves on the various issues and concerns pertaining to wildlife tourism, and animal and habitat conservation. By doing this, they will be able to make wiser choices for supporting animal welfare organizations that do not have profit as a primary concern.
Things to Avoid – Exotic Menus
When you are travelling one thing that you should definitely experiment with is the regional cuisine. However, not all items on the menu are as innocent as they pretend to be. Try and get to know the background of any strange animal-based food that may be recommended to you. Many of the items such as bird’s nest soup, shark fin soup, snake meat, etc. are illegal and most often supplied by the underground wildlife trade that undermines genuine conservation efforts, and is usually obtained by poaching and brutal slaughter of wildlife.
Things to Avoid – Tours and Safaris
Wildlife tours and safaris are perhaps the best way of observing animals in their natural habitats, and many organizations actually do a really good job of helping the conservation effort. While many operators and establishments have realized the vital importance of practising sustainable eco-tourism, there are many who simply seek to gain the maximum financial profit by exploiting the natural resources. These tour operators, as well as the participating tourists, end up significantly damaging the habitats and disrupting the normal behaviour patterns of the wildlife they encounter. You need to choose tours with care so that you do not contribute to the damage. Zion National Park jeep tours, for example, are conducted in such a way that there is the least amount of impact on the environment.
Activities such as jeep or speedboat chases, the use of bright lights or even fire and sound to drive out the animals into the open are some of the more reprehensible activities that have been reported on wildlife tours. The animals are traumatized to such an extent that their feeding and mating behaviours undergo a change and often they are forced to flee their usual haunts for unfamiliar and inhospitable territories causing irreversible physical and psychological damage. Only a thorough study of the operators will reveal their real concern about wildlife conservation.
Things to Avoid – Photo Opportunities
Many wildlife tourism facilities offer opportunities for photography with a cuddly bear or a tiger cub or suchlike animal for a hefty fee. Often claims are made that the proceeds go towards the maintenance of the animals as well as to support animal conservation efforts but they may not necessarily be true. Your willingness to pose with the wild animals may, in fact, be contributing to their demand for placing into captivity. The animals are also trained brutally so that they get along well with human beings cosseting them and many are also sedated to keep their natural aggression under control. The best way of conserving wildlife is to keep human contact to the minimum and this is obviously completely violated with this practice.
Things to Avoid – Zoos, Aquariums and Marine ParksEasily among the top tourist draws all over the world, many zoos, aquariums, and marine parks do a fabulous job in providing top-class animal welfare. Their programs contribute greatly to conservation, research on breeding practices, and public education. However, due to lack of conformity to international standards, a lot of these institutions end up keeping the animals under vastly different conditions, many of which are extremely unhealthy and hazardous to the welfare of the inmates. It is important that not only tourists refuse to visit these institutions but apply pressure on the authorities to change for the better or shut shop.
Charlie Brown is a freelance content writer. He has written many articles on different categories like Technology, fashion, finance, travel, health, etc. To know more about him, please his blog.