Natasha Daly is a writer for National Geographic. In her June 2019 article, “Suffering Unseen: The Dark Truth Behind Wildlife Tourism” she writes, “The wildlife tourism industry caters to people’s love of animals but often seeks to maximize profits by exploiting animals from birth to death. The industry’s economy depends largely on people believing that the animals they’re paying to watch or ride or feed are having fun too.”
Daly adds, “It succeeds partly because tourists—in unfamiliar settings and eager to have a positive experience—typically don’t consider the possibility that they’re helping to hurt animals. Social media adds to the confusion: Oblivious endorsements from friends and trendsetters legitimize attractions before a traveler ever gets near an animal.”
It’s a common problem in many parks, including Canada’s famous Banff National Park. “Bear jams” (as the locals call them) happen when a bear is sighted near the highway. Tourists pull their cars over to the side of the highway, and get out of their cars to gawk and take photos. They want to get close to the bears. While most individuals mean no harm, they don’t understand that they are putting themselves – and these animals – at risk.
Just recently in the U.S., near Henry Lake, a popular boating destination in Oregon, a black bear cub was killed because of people seeking selfies. Visitors to the park were taking photographs with the bear and feeding him. As a result of the visitor’s selfishness, the bear was dangerous because he was no longer afraid of humans.
Overseas, business are booming in an attempt to cash in on wildlife tourism and your emotions. Cafes are popping up and offering “wildlife experiences” for animal-loving patrons. For a small price, tourists can cuddle with river otters, owls or hold hedgehogs. Experts warn, however that these places fuel the underground exotic wildlife trade and when not “in use”, animals are kept in small cages and suffer from a variety of health problems.
What you can do:
- Use your heart AND your head.
- Leave wild animals alone.
- Never feed, try to touch or get close to a wild animal.
- Do not support or pay for wild animals performing tricks, shows or close encounters.
- Do not visit a farm where wild animals are bred and sold.
- Be weary of so-called "wildlife sanctuaries".
- Educate your friends and family about wildlife tourism.
Thank you for everything you do to keep wild animals wild.