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Responsible tourism: travelling respecting the animals

We all like to travel and many times we seek contact with nature. This happens especially when we travel to exotic countries and seek contact with wild animals. Travelling and respect for nature are two concepts that should go hand in hand. It is nothing other than responsible tourism. Discover what you can do to travel respecting animals! 

RESPONSIBLE TOURISM: TRAVELLING RESPECTING THE ANIMALS

Every time people are more disconnected from nature, which means that when we go to it we do not do it in the best way. How many times have we seen pictures of people with wild animals? If you really love animals, you will look for ways to approach them without endangering their lives or their natural habitat.

WHEN DO WE HAVE TO CONSIDER IRRESPONSIBLE AN ACTIVITY WITH ANIMALS?

A first indicator that we should reject an activity that will be harmful to animals is that they are not in their habitat, but above all because they perform sickly and inappropriate behaviors of their species. An encounter with animals should make us feel that we all are part of nature and that we all share the planet together. Remember: the animals are not for fun!

In accordance with the Amsterdam European Treaty of 1997, for animals to enjoy minimal animal welfare they must:

  • Do not suffer hunger or thirst.
  • Do not suffer discomfort.
  • Do not suffer pain, injury or illness.
  • Be free to express their natural behaviour.
  • Do not suffer fear or anguish.

For these reasons, when an activity calls into question any of these five points we must reject it.

3 ACTIVITIES THAT CAN ENDANGER ANIMALS (AND WE CAN AVOID)

ANIMAL SIGHTINGS AND SAFARIS

According to FAADA, every year 12 million trips are organised to observe wild animals in their natural habitat, whether they are cetaceans, birds, lions or any other animal.

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Safari in Kenia (Photo: DEMOSH, Creative Commons).

It is not difficult to imagine that all this amount of people occupying their natural habitats and interacting with animals have negative effects:

  • Behavioral and psychological changes, such as reducing the time they feed or rest or even seek refuge in other areas, where there could be less food and more predators.
  • Animals during breeding season are especially sensitive, so bothering them at this time can have negative effects for the conservation of the species.
  • Chemical changes in the blood by the increase of stress hormones or by being fed by tourists.
  • Transmission of diseases, whether from animals to humans or vice versa.
  • Their natural habitats are also compromised.

In spite of what we have just said, this type of activity can also have a positive impact on species, such as the protection of habitats, the financing of conservation projects, the creation of jobs for locals and education on wildlife and the need to preserve it. An example of this is the Galapagos Islands, which thanks to wildlife sightings, such as marine iguanas, can maintain the national park, or the whale sharks of the Seychelles, which can be studied thanks to the money collected.

TIPS FOR A RESPONSIBLE TOURISM IN ANIMAL SIGHTINGS AND SAFARIS

The tips that should be followed vary a lot depending on the species that we will observe, but in general we should take into account the following:

  • Do not take or introduce fauna or flora from the place we visit.
  • Do not use means of transport that move at high speed, that produce a lot of noise or that change direction abruptly.
  • Never touch the animals, because you could transmit diseases, infections or parasites (or vice versa).
  • Never feed the animals, because you could modify their behaviour patterns, create dependence or even suffer aggression.
  • Do not leave a trace of garbage, including organic remains.
  • Do not provoke animals or try to attract their attention.
  • Do not shout or make exaggerated noises or movements, because they could come to interpret it as a threat.
  • Do not maintain eye contact with animals, since some interpret it as a challenge.
  • Investigate when it is the time of reproduction or moult of the species that you want to see and avoid going in this period.
  • Never place yourself between two animals, especially between a mother and her offspring.
  • Try not to damage plants, mosses and lichens while walking or driving.
  • Respect the maximum time allowed for sighting.
  • Call the attention of the people in the group or the guide whenever these recommendations are not met and inform the organizers.

SOUVENIRS

In many touristic destinations, we can find some souvenirs made with animal parts or even with living animals.

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Ivory comb (Photo: Andreas Praefcke, Creative Commons).

Reject gifts or products with shells, horns, furs, feathers, teeth, bones or other parts. Remember that selling ivory, such as of elephant, is totally illegal. In addition, some objects can be made with sea turtle shells, such as jewellery or sunglasses. And as a final example, rejects any product of traditional Asian medicine made with parts of tiger, leopard, musk, rhinoceros and bear, since they are also illegal.

As for live animals, as a traveller/tourist and consumer, you have the power to stop this industry that endangers wildlife. Just to give an example, it is known about 700 animal species that are in danger of extinction as a result of the capture of exotic species to be acquired as pets. In addition, for a single individual to arrive at the store, it is estimated that there are 9 other animals that have died along the way.

Buy them, besides being unethical and that could have involved a lot of cruelty towards animals, could cause many legal problems, since the fact that they are sold does not mean that they are allowed.

TIPS FOR A RESPONSIBLE TOURISM IN SOUVENIRS

  • Never buy this type of products. Tell the seller that you want another type of souvenir.
  • If you suspect the legality of a product, inform the police, your tour operator or the local tourism authority.
  • Alerts the rest of tourists of this problem.

LOCAL TRADITIONS

Many times animals are abused, even causing their death, with the excuse that it is a tradition of the country or the region. An example of this are bullfights. As it is impossible to talk about all of them, here we are going to focus on elephants in temples, snake charmers and gastronomy.

ELEPHANTS IN TEMPLES

In Hindu and Buddhist countries it is easy to find elephants in the temples, since they consider that they will bring fortune and good luck. Interestingly, they do bring fortune; the money they get from the locals who want to be blessed in exchange for a donation.

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Elephants in temples are used for blessing visitors in exchange for a donation (Picture: unknown author, Creative Commons).

These elephants are victims of stress, boredom, loneliness, physical pain and psychological pain. Many times they remain chained for life in the same place, one front leg and one back so they cannot move. This usually causes psychological problems and can go crazy: it can be observed by a constant rolling of the head.

Obviously, they do not enjoy the necessary requirements: they spend 18 hours a day searching for food, they protect themselves from the sun with mud, they spend a lot of time in the water, they are highly sociable, they live in herds and a long etcetera.

Nor are they spared a long and suffered training time, in which they are deprived of water, food and social contact, they have limited movement, they are beaten when they rebel and to master them trainers use metal hooks to hit their heads and ears. We leave a video for you to see (notice: it’s hard).

SNAKE CHARMERS

In countries like India and Morocco it is not strange to find snake charmers. Let’s not trick ourselves: it’s not magic, it’s abuse.

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Snake charmers are not magicians, they are accomplices of animal abuse (Photo: Carlos Adampol Galindo, Creative Commons).

In the first place, we must be aware the poaching of these animals are a cause of their disappearance. In fact, each “charmer” uses about 7 snakes per year. The most commonly used species are the cobras and brooding vipers, horned and Maghreb, all very poisonous.

In addition, they are forced to live in wooden boxes of 15 x 40 x 60 cm, in which there are usually different species, so that predation, cannibalism or poisoning are not rare.

To avoid bites, their tusks are cut, their mouths are tied with plastic or even glue is used so that they can only stick their tongue out. The poison glands are also removed to prevent poisoning.

Why do they raise? The reason is that the “charmers” use flutes that look like snakes (in the eyes of snakes, of course) and perform undulating movements, so that they respond with intimidation.

GASTRONOMY

Travelling is a synonym of tasting other types of gastronomy, it is part of the grace of travelling. But when these dishes contain endangered animals or the preparation entails animal suffering, we must reject them.

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Some Asiatic dishes are thought the have some magical properties, but it’s far from the truth (Photo: unknown author, Creative Commons).

Here we will only focus on some dishes to avoid, but the list is long:

  • Shark fin soup (Asian countries): only the fins of the sharks are used to cook it, so they are cut off while they are still alive and the rest of the body is returned alive to the sea, so that their destiny is suffering until get to the deepest.
  • Turtle eggs (Asia and the Caribbean): turtles reproduce very slowly, so taking their eggs endangers their survival.
  • Whale meat (Iceland, Japan and Korea): not only threatens its survival, but also endangers human health (contains many pollutants).
  • Meat of wild animals (Africa, Asia and Latin America): the trade of monkey, anteater or elephant trunk meat is the main reason for its disappearance.

What is your next trip? Will you have any contact with nature and animals activities? What will you do so that this interaction does not compromise the animal’s well-being and survival? Leave us your comments!

Cover picture: pixnio.com

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