Destructive Habits: Reflecting on Wildlife Tourism

Wildlife tourism and watching has had an adverse effect on breeding, animals’ habitats and their behavior, as well. In some cases, just the mere presence of people can disturb an animal’s habitat. It is important that you, the inattentive tourist, learn about this now before you cause any more damage. According to a study entitled “The Impact of Tourism on Wildlife Conservation,” there is a distinction between wildlife watching and wildlife tourism. Wildlife watching is “organized tourism undertaken to watch wildlife,” while wildlife tourism is a “human activity undertaken to view wild animals in natural settings or captivity.” Although there is only a slight a difference between the two, they are equally destructive.

In 2011, I participated in the excursion “Everybody Loves Rays” in Nassau, Bahamas. I swam with stingrays in a restricted area of a beach. In an attempt to comfort us, the instructor said “the stingrays are more scared of you than you are of them.” As the other twenty tourists and I swam with the stingrays, I came to the realization that I was doing more than just “scaring” them – I was also exploiting the innocent animals and invading their natural habitat. According to National Geographic, stingrays are threatened sea creatures. During the time that they are fulfilling your selfish desires, they could be reproducing and living in their ecosystem unbothered by negligent tourists like you. As I acknowledge the fault in my actions, I hope you begin identifying the wrong in your participation in animal excursions.

A number of you probably believe that you are not doing anything wrong. In fact, you may believe you are contributing to their protection. The Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre, or CRC Tourism, elaborates on this issue when it relates, “Financial contributions to conservation generally arise through government-administered user fees such as entrance fees, visitor levies, commercial operator licensing fees and hunting license fees.” According to the CRC Tourism, although tourists contribute financially to the conservation of animals, the “income is usually insufficient to even cover the costs of managing visitor impacts.” If the money that companies are making from you cannot even cover the cost of your damage, do you genuinely believe that they have enough funds to provide all their animals with the best living condition? I, personally, do not think so. Though I concede that you are contributing to the conservation of animals, I still insist that the money is not being used to benefit the wellbeing of the animals providing you with entertainment and memories.

Instead of invading their space and harming them, you should focus on actively learning about and engaging with the country you are visiting. There are many other ways of effectively and efficiently learning about a culture or country without harming animals. Instead of visiting a turtle farm or going on a safari, consider eating at a local restaurant or visiting a museum. Since the trend of animal excursions and wildlife watching does not have a visible end, I ask you to reflect on your actions and make the best decision for both yourself and the animals, as well.