As more and more travellers become aware of the ethical issues surrounding wildlife tourim, and with South Africa still offering some of the best wildlife tourism in the world, so research into the ethics of wildlife tourism is having to up its game to stay ahead of changes on the ground.
One ground-breaking piece of research published recently entitled "Associated with Cruelty" is based on research conducted by Professor Xavier Font of the University of Surrey. It reports that only six out of 62 travel trade associations worldwide provide information on the importance of animal welfare. ABTA (UK) and ANVR (Dutch Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators) are the only travel associations to have animal welfare guidelines. By contrast, 16 associations feature pictures of wild animals being used as tourist attractions and interacting with tourists in their literature.
Fair Trade Tourism (which we at Where It All Began are members of) developed Captive Wildlife Guidelines earlier this year in consultation with 200 organisations to tackle specific issues around captive wildlife in South Africa. “In South Africa alone, there are 8,000 lions in captivity versus 4,000 free-roaming wild or managed lions – this is an industry that is rife with animal welfare issues and doing tremendous harm to Brand South Africa”, said Fair Trade Tourism MD, Jane Edge.
Ms Edge said there were genuine wildlife sanctuaries, rehabilitation centres and orphanages that were doing good work and deserved support. “However, it is not always easy to discern between the good, the bad and the ugly. “We urge tour operators to use our guidelines to interrogate the practices of wildlife facilities based on the core pillars of animal welfare, conservation, human safety and transparency. We need to stop supporting captive facilities that demonstrate poor practice and animal abuse.”
If you're ever in any doubt about whether your selected safari destination is all its cracked up to be, run it past us at Where It All Began: we'll help you make the right choice for the animals you've come all this way to see.