- the practice of touring natural habitats in a manner meant to minimize ecological impact. (Miriam Webster).
- Its purpose may be to educate the traveler, to provide funds for ecological conservation, to directly benefit the economic development and political empowerment of local communities, or to foster respect for different cultures and for human [and animal] rights. (wikipedia).
You may have heard of the Tiger Temple in Thailand. It’s one of Thailand’s largest tourist attractions where you can get up close and personal with Tigers. The temple assures visitors that these animals are rescued from poachers, and that they help in the breeding for conservation of the tigers. However this is not the case. Everything from illegal trading of animals, breeding and housing infractions, “Temple tigers were [also] identified to be suffering with a catalog of behavioral and physical problems], not to mention tourist safety was often overlooked with documented injuries and even fatal attacks. Unfortunately many tour groups still continue to take their tours here despite these findings. However many are thankfully starting to find alternatives, such as real wildlife conservation areas. You may not be able to snuggle up with a tiger, however with a safari type of adventure you will be able to drive through a giant piece of conserved land where you can see these animals in their natural habitat while entrance fees go straight to the preservation of the animals and land.
(See more at: http://www.careforthewild.com/what-we-do/campaigns/previous-campaigns/tiger-temple-the-truth/#sthash.AvKL4LmM.dpuf) *findings via Care for the Wild.
I would like to applaud those of you who visit ecologically friendly conservation sights, and enjoy the thrill of seeing an animal in its natural habit. There is no better feeling that seeing a pod of whales 60 feet away from your little boat off the coast of Canada, compared to a small cramped pool in SeaWorld. To see that dolphin jumping in your wake in Mexico, or that whale playing in the waves of Kauaii. It will take your breath away again, and again. Sure there is a small impact of boats in the water, however this is nowhere as invasive as taking an animal out of its natural habitat purely for human “enjoyment”.
What you can do to make sure you are travelling in an ecologically friendly manner:
- Make it a priority to see animals in their natural habitat. – Whales off the coast of Canada, Dolphins in the ocean in Mexico (not the “Swim with dolphins excursions”!!), Giraffes/Lions/Zebras in Africa on a Safari. Sure a Zoo is cool to visit, but how cool would a kids first day of grade 1 be when he/she says they just saw a lion in Africa, a whale in Victoria, a monkey in Asia. You’re doing way more then supporting eco tourism, you’re opening the eyes of younger generations to a world of real wildlife. A place where if you care for the world in the right manner, we might be able to sustain these animals and places for future generations.
- Do your research – Get informed. Check out wildlife sights that specialize in the region you are visiting. There are a ton of options for eco tourism sites whose best interest is the animals and the environments safety and well being, AND yours.
- Ask your tour company what their priorities are. – Most tour companies that support eco tourism state it. If not, ask!
- Check out some great documentaries! – some include:
- Blackfish: http://blackfishmovie.com/
- The Cove: http://www.thecovemovie.com/
- Sharkwater: http://www.sharkwater.com/
- An Apology to Elephants: http://www.hbo.com/documentaries/an-apology-to-elephants
- The Elephant in the Living Room: http://theelephantinthelivingroom.com/