Ethical ecotourism: what to engage with and what to avoid

The African safari is on almost everyone’s bucket list. The idea of ​​searching for incredible and iconic animals across the savannah and in the bush evokes an unparalleled sense of wonder. It also seems like one of the purest and most ethical wildlife experiences possible. What could be more ethical than taking pictures of truly free animals living their natural lives without us being affected? It is more complicated than that.

The history of safari is strongly built on the colonialist culture of hunting and the killing of trophy animals such as lions, leopards, tigers or elephants as a status symbol. And although the camera has now replaced the gun in many cases, there is still an uncomfortable and sobering reality that many game drives are still run the same way: animals tend to be fenced in by the landowner and visitors still participate in animal hunting. .

The truth is that the closer we get to these wild animals, the more we endanger them. We shouldn’t be able to approach such close proximity and in doing so we increase the chances of them coming into conflict with the local population and contracting human or farmed animal diseases.

When choosing a safari or similar activity to join, be sure to research the purpose and ethos of the organization running it. Do they operate in canned hunting (releasing captive animals specifically to be tracked and hunted)? Have they set the maximum number of visitors in the park at any given time? Is the primary goal of the park wildlife and habitat well-being? These questions are important because there are too many unethical companies that put profit above ethics.

In Ranthambhore National Park, India, jeep drivers looking for tigers are not allowed to use walkie-talkies to alert each other when a tiger has been spotted. This is to prevent streams of cars from appearing wherever the tigers go, causing them stress and altering their natural behavior. There is also a maximum number of guests allowed in the park, which is zoned in areas accessible at different times of the day to allow refuge for animals away from the glare of humans.

There are ways to deal fairly with safaris and other wildlife-based attractions, ways that are being implemented today, but it’s up to us as consumers to know what to be careful about, because our decisions on where we spend our money will shape the future. of this sector and its ethics.

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