I went on my first safari in South Africa only four years ago; it was exhilarating, uplifting and educational. Out in the wild, a local guide shared their knowledge of the birds and the plant life, and the excitement of spotting a lion lazing in the shade was a true pleasure.
It’s this community-based wildlife tourism that offers travellers an experience they will cherish, and protects the biodiversity tourism relies upon.
But not all animal attractions are created equal. Captive animals are reliant on their keepers to provide for their specific needs, and if managed badly this can result in poor welfare and threaten survival. With experts and, increasingly, the public no longer considering captivity required – or acceptable – due to the negative impacts on animal welfare, things are changing.
Take for example captive whales, dolphins and porpoises, collectively known as cetaceans. Ticket sales for these attractions are declining, and facilities are closing as public and political sentiment changes – the only remaining captive orcas in North America are held by one company, SeaWorld.
Due to public pressure, SeaWorld has ended all import, export and breeding of orcas. Yet more than 3,600 cetaceans remain in captivity worldwide, and more sanctuaries are needed to provide suitable homes for displaced animals.
By empowering everyone to make different decisions, we can guide the industry towards change that favours animal viewing in their native habitats and supports marine sanctuary creation to support relocation and retirement of captive whales and dolphins.
Our ultimate objective? To eliminate practices that jeopardise the welfare of animals and threaten wildlife or their fragile natural habitats.
Claire Ross is Kuoni’s director of sustainability.