A world-wide community supporting responsible wildlife tourism for conservation and animal welfare. 

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Background

People's concern for the environment has been steadily increasing as we learn more about climate change, biodiversity, trophic cascades and how changes in the natural world can directly affect our well-being. This invested interest has resulted in a close relationship between the environment and tourism (Reynolds and Braithwaite, 2001). While this relationship has changed and progressed over the years, our interest in nature has created a niche market in high demand. Wildlife tourism involves encouraging visitors to have positive encounters with wildlife in an attempt to encourage protection and investment in their environmental sustainability (Reynolds and Braithwaite, 2001). They can provide an opportunity to interact with and observe wild animals from all over the world, creating a connection between people and some of our most endangered species (Ballantyne et al., 2009). These experiences can include both captive animals such as those found in aquariums, zoos and wildlife centers, or interactions with animals in their natural habitats like nature parks and ecotourism opportunities (Ballantyne et al., 2009).

Research has shown that direct experiences with nature help to foster emotional connections between the natural world and us (Kals et al., 1999). This leads to a better understanding and stronger desire to protect and conserve animals and their ecosystems. With the intense urbanization of society, people are becoming more disconnected from nature, which in turn results in our inability to understand how our daily actions can impact the natural environment (Forestell, 1993). Wildlife tourism can help re-connect society with the natural world, however, education is essential as not everybody can recognize factors that contribute to an experiences positive or negative impact on wildlife. Studies suggest that around 80% of tourists do not recognize signs of negative animal welfare (Moorhouse et al, 2015). When done correctly, wildlife tourism can promote a healthy perspective of wildlife conservation and animal welfare both in tourists and in local communities (Ballantyne et al., 2011). Since wildlife tourism helps to support local economies, investing our tourist dollars in positive tourist experiences can promote long-term conservation of wildlife and habitat (Moorhouse et al, 2015). In terms of wildlife tourism, the educational and conservation opportunities are endless; it is up to us to commit to the decision to choose positive educational experiences.


MISSION

While the goals of wildlife tourism are admirable, the management and practice of some components do not contribute to the protection of biodiversity. Whenever I decide to travel, whether within my own province or across the globe, I always try to learn more about the native animals and ecosystems I am visiting. However, from personal experience I have found it difficult to find accurate information on some of the wildlife tourism opportunities available where I am visiting. I want to ensure that my time and money is going to support conservation and high animal welfare. Unfortunately, there are a vast number of wildlife experiences that participate in poor animal husbandry and encourage an unhealthy view of animal care and conservation – myself, friends and family have sadly been privy to some of these experiences.

The aim of this website is to encourage personal investment in the wildlife tourism industry by combing reviews submitted by people all over the world, with scientific research and news articles to offer the suggestions of positive wildlife tourism opportunities. 

I hope that this website can be used to encourage people to be excited about their travels and want to support businesses that are showcasing positive forms of tourism to help create more constructive human-wildlife interactions around the globe.


References: 

Ballantyne, R., Packer, J., and Hughes, K. (2009) Tourists’ support for conservation messages and sustainable management practices in wildlife tourism experiences. Tourism Management, 30, 658-664.

Ballantyne, R., Packer, J., and Sutherland, L.A. (2011) Visitors’ memories of wildlife tourism: Implications for the design of powerful interpretive experiences.

Forestell, P. (1993). If Leviathan has a face, does Gaia have a soul? Incorporating environmental education in marine eco-tourism programs. Ocean and Coastal Management, 20, 267-282.

Kals, E., Schumacher, D., and Montaga, L. (1999) Emotional affinity towards nature as a motivational basis to protect nature. Environment and Behaviours, 31, 178-202

Moorhouse, T.P., Dahlsjo, C.A.L., Baker, S.E., D'Cruze, N.C., and MacDonald, D.W. (2015) The customer isn't always right - conservation and animal welfare implications of the increasing demand for wildlife tourism. PLoS One, 10(10): e0138939.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0138939

Reynolds, P.C., and Braithwaite, D. (2001) Towards a conceptual framework for wildlife tourism. Tourism Management, 22, 31-42.

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