Behind the scenes of the wildlife tourism industry
Animals and wildlife are a feature of many holidays, both at home and further afield. From the everyday — zoos and circuses — to the exotic and unusual — swimming with sharks and walking with lions — we often see opportunities to get “up close and personal” with wild animals while travelling.
But there’s growing unease among travellers with the use of animals in the tourism industry. What was the sequence of events that led to an individual animal being made available for our entertainment? What are the effects of captivity on wild animals’ health and wellbeing? What does the commercial demand for captive wildlife mean for their survival in the wild?
Thankfully, very few of us wish to cause deliberate harm to wildlife. We’re usually driven by the purer motivations of curiosity, kindness and love. But even so, our personal decisions while on holiday can have a direct impact on the welfare of individual animals, and their conservation more generally.
It’s not always easy to make the right choices, or even to know what they are. That’s why we created this guide, which draws on authoritative sources to give you a look behind the scenes of the wildlife tourism industry and help you make informed decisions about how you interact with animals on your next holiday.
The purpose is not to tell you what to do (or what not to do), but simply to help you navigate the minefield of issues, show you what to look out for, and equip you to ask the right questions before you book your trip.
Ultimately, it’s always down to individual decisions: whether to visit one place and not another; whether to take part in a particular activity or not; whether or not to have your photograph taken with an animal; where to spend your hard-earned money; what values you support and what values you reject.
We all have choices. That is part and parcel of being a human being. And the cumulative impact of thousands of individual decisions can have a dramatic effect.
What you decide can make a world of difference.