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Wildlife tourism is a big subject in the travel industry. Many countries rely on the money they make from wildlife tours. However, there are a few things to consider in terms of animal rights if you decide to do an animal excursion or a wildlife tour.
I want to discuss animal tourism today. There’s a very dark truth behind wildlife tourism causing animal suffering. Many tourists are innocently participating in these acts and supporting the harmful environment. Not aware of what’s going on behind the scenes and what the animals are going through. The tourist has a nice day, happily leaves, and the animal had another really bad and possibly painful day in its life.
Animal Rights Guidelines For Wildlife Tourism
I am going to write in depth articles about every single activity in animal tourism. I’m talking dolphin spotting, riding on elephants, petting lions, visiting monkey forests and so much more. I know it’s fun to see these wild animals so close up but it is not ethical. There are other options to see them in real life that don’t involve animal suffering!
I have collected a few animal rights guidelines for wildlife tourism. Follow the guidelines if you want to participate in wildlife tourism to not support businesses who harm animals. You want to support the businesses that take care of the animals and possibly have saved them from these harmful situations. The ones that go out of their way to regain the animals trust and make the rest of their life peaceful and pain free. Even better, watch the animals in the wild where they can live their life free.
Guideline 1: Don’t get too close
Whenever you encounter a wild animal in real life, always keep your distance. This will avoid the animals feeling threatened, anxious and invaded in their personal living environment. Scientists have named the urge from humans to touch the animals to feel a deeper connection, it’s called the biophilia hypothesis.
If an organization offers you to pet an animal, to ride on an animal or even touch an animal – alarm bells should go off immediately. Animals are wild and will not let you touch them. The only reason why they accept it is if they are drugged or severely abused. The animal is either not able to move and run off or it’s scared to death to be beaten again and will let you touch him or her to avoid this.
So what’s a good alternative? Jeep safaris or even walking tours with a professional guide will let you 1) see the animals, 2) keep a distance and not disrupting their life, 3) you won’t support businesses who hurt animals and 4) you’ll get to see them in their true habitat.
Guideline 2: Visit a sanctuary
If you are looking for the experience of seeing an elephant up close, do not go to these touristic places where they offer, you guessed it: touching the elephant. You want to visit GOOD sanctuaries, the ones who saved animals from horrific situations and offer them a better life. The best ones will let you observe the animals from far away and not touching the animal. Always to extensive research because some businesses will portray themselves as a sanctuary, while in fact they are still harming the animals.
I know the line is very vague and I am going to write an in-depth blogpost about sanctuaries and what you should know before visiting them. This includes questions to ask beforehand, reg flags and information to find.
Guidelines 3: Responsible shopping
Souvenir buying. Do we love it? I’m a fan, I love collecting small souvenirs to bring home and display on my shelves. It makes me remember the travels I did even more.
However, never ever buy souvenirs made from bones, coral, jewellery made from corals and even traditional medicines made from wild animals. Animal suffering even reaches these souvenir shops. I won’t even believe the store owner if he or she says the souvenir is “fake” and doesn’t contain any corals or bones. You never know what people say to make money and it’s best to step away from those souvenirs and buy responsible ones instead.
Instead, buy the ethically self-made souvenirs and support the local business creating these souvenirs. You will help the local community and help the animals as well. Try to find the ones that are sustainably made as well so you’re even helping the planet at the same time!
Guideline 4: Know what’s on the menu
You may forget about this one when we’re talking about animal welfare and wildlife tourism. It is not only about what kind of activities you do and which businesses you support. It’s about what you eat as well.
Be critical about the food on the menu and do research if you’re not sure if its ethically right to eat that kind of animal. For example, bush meat is often hunted down, scared and killed unethically. Some countries offer snake wine which is made by drowning a live snake in alcohol. Other countries have meat from protected animals on their menu and that’s illegal.
I know it’s hard to completely know what you’re eating but I really highly suggest to take this seriously and to do your research. If you’re not sure, order something else from the menu that you do know. It won’t change the fact that they already killed the animal unethically. However, if less people are going to order this stuff, it will become less interesting for them to continue.
Guideline 5: Don’t interfere wild animals
It might be irresistible to feed that cute deer near your Airbnb, to feed the bears and other wild animals. Definitely stop doing this if you already do it. Wild animals are supposed to run away if they see humans, they should not find us interesting and approach us.
This for one will be dangerous for the people living in that area. Many incidents have been reported over the years where wild animals become too comfortable around humans, invade towns and even kill people.
Secondly, the animals will become dependent on us to feed them. They will stop hunting and if this continues too long, they will forget how to hunt properly. If “we”, as humans, leave and stop feeding them, they will starve because they simply can’t take care of themselves.
The logical alternative is to never feed wildlife. They’re able to take care of themselves and it’s part of the circle of life. They can survive without us. Humans shouldn’t interfere.
Read more: The Idea & Impact of CO2-Compensation
We, as travellers, hold a big responsibility in helping and improving animal tourism. We should be the one speaking up for these animals who cannot speak up for themselves. These guidelines will help you become a responsible traveller in animal tourism. It gives you the experience while thinking and caring for animal rights.
We have a long way to go, but as long as travellers continue on banning these places – it will become less interesting and profiting for these businesses to continue their work. It won’t change overnight but as I have said many times: small changes lead to big positive impacts.
Did you know these guidelines?