That was the moment I’ve dreamed about since booking a safari to track a puma in Patagonia: two playful cubs and their mother, just spots on the hill, heading towards us. If we’re lucky, they’ll soon be in plain sight.
I grabbed my binoculars, excited to watch their movements from afar – 400 feet away – but my heart dropped at the scene as it unfolded. Camera-clad tourists didn’t even hide their attempts to walk close to the animals; The mother, Puma, was now on high alert with her ears pierced, visibly alarmed. My guide, local Puma tracker and photographer Miguel FuentalbaHe shook his head in disgust. “This—that’s not good,” he said, noting that such behavior, unfortunately, is condoned by outfitters in private lands outside Chile. Torres del Paine National Park. However, he guides young guides with the hope that one day ethical Puma tracking will become the norm.
The experience as a whole was painful. surely, I I wasn’t on that irresponsible wildlife tour, but watching these travelers approach the animals without worry, perhaps not realizing they were wrong, just reminded me how important it is to research an experience like this before booking.
Finding an ethical wildlife travel experience requires research, analysis, and a bachelor’s degree scale of greenwashing jargon, not to mention a solid understanding of the do’s and don’ts of animal encounters in the wild. Here’s advice from conservation and wildlife travel experts on how to find responsible wildlife travel outfitters, as well as common red flags telling businesses to avoid.
Research companies thoroughly
Before you book any wildlife experience, spend some time on the various tour operators websites and their social media. Digging beyond “eco-friendly” marketing messages. Do they protect the animals they take travelers to see?
Do they have a sustainability or conservation department [on their site]? What do they do across the spectrum – do they have sustainability behaviours, such as giving back to the community? ‘ says Jim Sano, Vice President of Travel, Tourism and Environmental Conservation World Wildlife Fund (WWF). “If you see these things, it’s a good indication that they have made a commitment and most likely are not following the rules of the protected area.”
Ask the right questions
Not all tour operators can have an integrated website and multi-million dollar wildlife conservation campaign—especially local outfitters, like the ones I’ve traveled with. This does not mean that they do not take conservation seriously. Plus, exploring with a local or local guide is one of the best ways to help the community you’re visiting. So how do you define ethical wildlife tours?
When choosing a worker, ask questions about [the tourism] Approach, type, location, and process,” says Jack Fishman, Community and Conservation Officer at the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. PADI Aware Foundation. If you cannot find this information on the guide’s website or social media, contact by email or phone to inquire before booking. Also, take some time to browse the review sites; Are there reports of bad behavior in the 1 or 2 star reviews? David MacDonald, Director of the University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, recommend Avoid any wildlife activity with a clothing manufacturer whose TripAdvisor score has fallen below 80 percent.
Another hint that the tour operator may not be responsible? 100% guarantee of wildlife viewing. This assertion could result from a factory feeding the animals, a practice known as sourcing, which conservation biologists say is “dangerous to the health and safety of wild animals,” according to the New York times.
In addition to searching for red flags, you can also proactively find a responsible tour operator by consulting regional conservation societies for their suggestions. (For example, it lists its Galapagos Conservation Trust Recommended Tourism Partners; Many financially support the trust, indicating that they are walking the march and returning conservation research.)
Be the shrewdness of the shelter
Sanctuaries are one of the biggest marketing scams in the wildlife tourism world. Yes, some legitimately try to help endangered animals, but perhaps a larger portion of them are wrongly using the label to express their morals and appeal to travelers. These photos of travelers feeding adorable lion cubs or taking selfies with sloths are a major red flag.
according to betaReputable animal sanctuaries do not allow for hands-on interactions with wildlife. Includes the common practice of Bathing with elephants. This experience is marketed as more responsible than riding an elephant (which You should never do it), but unfortunately, training to prepare them for safe bathing with humans is equally shocking.
“Tourists need to know the truth – any elephant you can get close enough to touch is an elephant that has been horribly abused by this use,” Audrey Malia, global head of wildlife for World Animal Protection, said in a report. Company blog post.
For guidance when choosing whether or not to visit one, use the World Federation of Conservatives’ Find a shelter a map. The Federation vets and accredits responsible organizations around the world, giving you peace of mind that a particular facility puts its animals first.
fan of afar
When you set out to experience the wilderness, you are entering an animal house. It’s critical to being a passive bystander, says Fishman. Watch the magical kingdom unfold, but don’t put yourself in the middle of it – even when an object approaches you.
“Yes, the animal may touch you, but this is not always a sign that the animal is looking for a physical response,” he says. Our touch can be devastating to marine species, from introducing bacteria to destroying the protective layers of skin. And our touch can be very stressful.”
Such close encounters are more frequent underwater—which is why PADI dive instructors share responsible guidelines before every outing—but, as I’ve found on my Patagonian puma tracking tour, some operators on land have been known to get too close, too. Important ground rules for wildlife and wildlife tourism from Professional Kenya Safari Guides Association Include: don’t bother animals with noises or bright lights or get too close to them to get out; stay on approved roads; And don’t get closer than about 65 feet. (Similar to the Fuentalpa approach in Patagonia, it’s important to let the wild animals roam. If they come towards you, great. If they don’t advance towards you, watch with binoculars.)
When in doubt, be a fly on the wall – and if you end up on a tour where the guide doesn’t follow these rules, speak up. Your guide, or the owner of the tour company, may have an explanation of the behavior that you are not aware of. If the response is still incorrect, contact a wildlife conservation organization to have the gut checked. If the actions turn out to be harmful to animals, Sano says the best way to report them is to write reviews on sites like TripAdvisor. This will help future travelers redirect their money to more responsible outfitters.
Remember: Wildlife Tourism Can I do well
Unfortunately, negative actions from some tour operators taint the entire industry. Responsible wildlife tourism can do wonders and it has done so to save endangered species by offering local people better financial incentives than poaching, hunting and mining. “Shark tourism around the world has made sharks more valuable than alive, resulting in their conservation,” Fishman says.
Sano refers to Namibia, the first African country to adopt environmental protection in its constitution in 1990, as a Case Study on the positive effects of ethical wildlife tourism. When the government granted Namibians the right to manage their natural resources through community reserves, previously decimated lions, leopards and black rhino populations rebounded—and ecotourism is now one of the leading income models to support these communities.
Book with responsible wildlife outfitters
Here are three examples of international outfitters that embody the above criteria. You can find other responsible wildlife tour leaders, including local and regional guides, through the steps above or by using worldwide sustainable Tourism Board And the B Corp directories.
Abercrombie and Kent: For decades, the travel provider Abercrombie and Kent He prioritized animal welfare over epic shoots. In 1982, two decades after the company was launched, it was co-founded by leader Jeffrey Kent Save friends, one of the first community preservation initiatives on the planet. In the following decades, his company helped introduce a wildlife-safe driver education curriculum and a code of conduct for Kenya safaris. Recently, the operator has started a range of innovative conservation programmes, including a partnership with the Rhino Conservation Botswana to relocate more than 70 rhinos from poaching grounds to the area. Moremi Game Reserve, where the official “rhino watchers” monitor it 24/7. Guests are welcome to see and learn about the rhino conservation strategy on the company’s many trips in Botswana.
brave: B Corp certification, brave It was the first global tour company to ban elephant riding in 2014, long before the harmful effects of the practice were widely shared. The company has strength animal welfare policyStarting with the golden rule: watch them from a distance. On the conservation side, Intrepid also runs reforestation projects, promotes carbon offset, and performs efforts Like the Torres del Paine Legacy Funda program designed to help this Patagonian park preserve its biodiversity as crowds continue to grow.
Natural Habitat Adventures: With the support of the World Wide Fund for Nature, Habitat Adventures (NatHab) hosts trips from the Arctic to Africa and has always been innovative when it comes to sustainable travel offerings. In 2019, she launched the world’s first completely waste-free adventure, a Yellowstone excursion focused on composting, recycling, and recycling in the wild. The company also supports Popular conservation initiatives within the communities he visits. These include the Great Bear Rainforest Conservation in British Columbia, where NatHab helped fund and protect critical terrain for grizzly bears, and Hope for Madagascar, a project designed to help local people across the country reduce poverty through education and conservation.