An ethical guide to wildlife tourism | London Evening Standard
Daring with Sedated Tigers and Instagraming Elephant Bath Time in a “Sanctuary”? Forget what you know about wildlife tourism.
Whether it’s travel agencies partnering with green charities, Kalahari conservation trips, or citizen science projects in Britain, doing your part for animals has come a long way. Here are some of the best …
Animals with Airbnb
Stand-up paddleboarding trips along the Florida canals with a corgi on board. Afternoon tea with caressable Scottish sheep. Observation of a family of arctic foxes in Iceland. Anything is possible with Airbnb’s Animal Experiences which just started (airbnb.co.uk/experiences). If any of them seem callous, don’t worry, the collection is tied to an animal welfare policy approved by the World Animal Protection charity.
The adventures are divided into three categories: “observation” trips are like game drives and include things like an hour of spying on wild parrots in Brooklyn; “care” packages could take you for a walk near South African penguins; while “play” allows participants to cuddle goats or groom miniature ponies.
Nature-loving group visits
Small-group tour operator G Adventures released an updated animal welfare policy in October, developed with the Jane Goodall Institute, the World Cetacean Alliance and the World Animal Protection. It is about not having contact nor feeding the non-domesticated animals; do not visit shows involving wildlife; and not to eat endangered species.
While all tours adhere to the policy, his Jane Goodall collection is particularly concerned with wildlife, with 20 trips approved by the leading anthropologist. These include a 15-night tour of Costa Rica’s volcanoes, rainforests, and beaches, where you can see monkeys, toucans, sloths, dolphins, and hatching turtles.
Departures all year, from £ 1,019pp, transport, excursions and 12 meals included (gadventures.com)
Ethical elephant rides
In September, the Association of British Travel Agents launched guidelines that found elephant rides unacceptable. This practice prompted Intrepid Travel to remove all rides from its small-group tours as early as 2014. In addition to offering game drives, Intrepid takes travelers to sanctuaries where elephant welfare is a priority. ChangChill, which can be visited from next year as part of its Thailand tour, was once a place for elephant rides, but now visitors observe locals roaming free from a safe distance while walking familiarizing with them.
16 Night Classic Thailand East Coast Tour from £ 1,830 per person including transfers, excursions and 19 meals (intrepidtravel.com)
Whales in the wild
Cetaceans in captivity were also in the spotlight this fall. TripAdvisor, after consulting with animal rights organization Peta, is following in Virgin and British Airways’ footsteps in announcing that it will soon stop selling tickets to SeaWorld. The theme park chain has come under fire after the 2013 documentary Blackfish chronicled the suffering of an orca at SeaWorld Orlando. Although SeaWorld insists it is conservation minded, whale or dolphin watching in the wild is a good conscience. Try the Azores in the Atlantic, where 28 of the planet’s 87 cetaceans have been sighted.
Sunvil seven-night trip from £ 1,220 per person, including flights, car hire, self-catering and 12-hour boat trips (sunvil.fr)
Join the Puffarazzi
What do you think of puffins? If the answer is anything from moderately interested to totally obsessed, you might be interested in a chance to help seabirds. With numbers plummeting to the point of threat of extinction amid worries about lack. food, the RSPB’s Puffin Project is a team of Puffarazzi – basically anyone who sends company snapshots of the ultra-cute species (of any year) with fish in their bills or who visits a colony in next June or July (feeding season) and take a picture of them (rspb.org.uk).
Top spots in the UK include Lundy Island, RSPB Dunnet Head in Scotland and Skomer in Pembrokeshire. This campaign illustrates the emerging trend of “citizen science” projects allowing amateurs to make valuable contributions to research. Other options with a bent for wildlife include sighting log apps such as eBird (ebird.org) or count sea creatures like lobsters and survey sections of the Belize Barrier Reef on diving trips to the Central American country (muchbetteradventures.com).
The most direct way to help wildlife is, of course, to book a wildlife conservation trip, as many people apparently do. Responsible Travel reports that bookings in this bracket have increased by 35% in one year. The options are plentiful, from setting up camera traps and bear tracking in Transylvania to volunteering in a cheetah-focused carnivore project amid the red dunes of the Namib Desert in Namibia (Responsible Travel.com).
Alternatively, travel with Naturetrek knowing your money will help the animals – the wildlife tour specialist has now donated over £ 800,000 to carefully chosen conservation programs. One of them, Butterfly Conservation, recently reintroduced the magnificent Marsh Fritillary to England in May. Lepidopteran enthusiasts are directed to Naturetrek’s butterfly-themed tours to places such as Sweden, Sri Lanka, and South Africa (naturetrek.co.uk).