How to visit the wild without leaving a trace.
When we think of going on a wildlife holiday, we’re thinking of the selfies with animals up close and how many likes we’ll have when we post them on Instagram. We get excited about the prospect of going on elephant rides, petting tigers, or swimming with dolphins and whale sharks. We think that monkeys and seals will entertain us while sloths and tarsiers will willingly pose for us. We think that as tourists, we have all the right to act like we do since we’re paying dollars to see these animals.
But the sad truth is that when animals are drugged, captive, and chained, our visit isn’t doing them or us a favor. We want to see these creatures roam safely and freely in their natural environment. We want to see them express their natural behavior, not as some trained entertainer or crowd-pleaser. When we understand that our awareness counts and how our wildlife holiday can make a lasting impact on conservation efforts, we’re doing so as responsible wildlife tourists.
Responsible Wildlife Tourists Tips
We can all be responsible wildlife observers by choosing the activities which have minimal impact on the animals we want to see. These efforts not only span our preps for the trip, as they should include activities that increase our awareness.
Before you head out for a wildlife holiday, make sure you do your research. Go beyond tour pamphlets to learn about the animals you’ll be visiting. Know their natural behaviors and how you can safely interact with them. This way, you’ll know what to expect and how you should deal with the animals when you’re already on tour.
Look for a reputable tour operator that shows clean enclosures or provides ample areas for animals to rest and wander. Read reviews and be wary of claims such as ‘conservation,’ ‘sanctuary,’ and ‘rescue,’ as these wildlife facilities might still keep animals in chains and cages. Always remember that the goal of your wildlife holiday is to see the animals’ natural behavior in the wild.
Follow Wildlife Selfie Code
Understandably, you want a photo of these wild animals as bragging rights. After all, it could be your last chance before they go extinct. Make sure the animal is in its natural habitat and that it can freely move away after the shot. Refrain from flash photography and use a trail camera to capture wildlife pictures instead. These cameras are handy and discrete that you don’t need to be too close to take beautiful shots.
Never feed the animals no matter how cute or cuddly they may seem. These animals have a different diet than what you’re accustomed to. Giving them treats may mess up their appetite and could even make them sick. Constant feeding also encourages dependence on humans for food, which can turn into aggressive behavior.
Watch And Don’t Touch
Responsible wildlife tourists are content with watching the animals at a safe distance and consider taking wildlife-watching trips.
For example, take a boat or kayak to watch whales and dolphins. If you are allowed to swim with them, make sure that you’re with marine experts. Always hold onto the line and never swim towards the whales. Alternatively, you can do land-based whale watching, so it’s safer for kids and those with motion sickness.
With gorillas, you’ll need to limit interactions to an hour and make sure you maintain a seven-meter safe distance. When going tiger trekking in India, remind your driver to observe the 20km speed limit. Keep noise minimal so as not to startle tigers and other animals in the area.
Rely on Expert Guides
If you didn’t have time to read before your travel, an expert guide can tell you more about the animals you’re visiting. Aside from learning about animal behavior, you’ll also learn how responsible wildlife tourism can make a difference for the animals and the communities that care for them.
Support Local Communities
Aside from seeing wildlife, you can also take the time to support the communities around parks and reserves. Choose to buy locally-made handicrafts rather than jewelry made from animal parts. Make it clear that the animals are worth more when they’re alive, so residents don’t need to hunt them.
Contribute To Conservation Efforts
Most tour operations with sustainable practices donate a portion of tour earnings to conservation efforts. To show additional support, you too can contribute to animal welfare charities or local conservation organizations. You can also give money to fund research activities that will increase our understanding of wildlife behaviors and how best to protect them.
Extend your wildlife holiday to become lifetime advocacy. Speak up when you notice animals being mistreated by their handlers. Support sustainable wildlife tourism practices by sharing them with family and friends. Use the power of social media to influence others. If you want to up it a notch, sign up with wildlife animal conservation groups.
Responsible wildlife tourism has the potential to change lives—your own, the animals, and the communities around them. More than just a few days in the wild, it advocates for ethical practices that ensure animals run wild and free as they’re supposed to.
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