Each year more than 30,000 endangered species such as elephants and rhinos are killed for their horns and tusks. Most responsible travelers are to directly to blame for killing endangered animals, there are certain choices that tourists sometimes make that could inadvertently hurt local wildlife and harm delicate animal and plant habitats. If you want to be a responsible, eco-friendly traveler, check out these 10 'know before you go' travel tips.
10 Things You Should Know About Wildlife Preservation When Traveling Abroad
If you care about the environment and feel strongly about animal rights, here are some important things you should know before heading off on your next exotic vacation.
Protect these majestic animals.
Don't buy souvenirs that are made from endangered animals parts.
1. Don’t buy products that perpetuate cruelty to animals. In some countries, certain animals, and animal parts, are harvested because it is believed that products derived from them can cure illnesses, increase virility, or lengthen a person’s life span. Shark fins, bear bile, and rhino horn are just a few examples of animal products that are harvested in an unsustainable, cruel manner and can have a negative impact on an endangered species' survival.
2. Are you planning a trip to the zoo? If you choose to visit a zoo, marine mammal center, aquarium or other animal-themed amusement parks, make sure you do your research ahead of time. Is the facility accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums? Does it have a good reputation among scientists, environmentalists, and wildlife experts?
3. Be an eco-savvy shopper.Clothing accessories such as belts, watch straps, wallet, purses and shoes are often made from the skins of animals such as reptiles, shark, eel, and other potentially endangered species.
4. If you pick it up, always put it back. The next time you travel to a tropical beach destination, avoid the temptation to pick up a ‘free’ souvenir off the beach. Collecting seashells, even just one or two, is more harmful to the environment than you may realize. Even though that seashell may look empty to you, it could be home to microscopic sea life that lives on and in the shell. Hermit crabs make their homes in empty seashells. If thousands of tourists picked just one or two shells off the beach, where would these hermit crabs live?
In some countries, picking seashells off the beach to take home is not only bad for the environment, it could be against the law. But if you really want to go ‘shelling,’ a term for scavenging seashells of the beach, there are some places where, due to natural currents, an abundant amount of empty seashells get washed ashore. Sanibal Island, of the coast of Florida, is one such place where tourists are invited to collect seashells off the beach, provided the shells don’t have live creatures in them.
5. What’s that on your face? Watch out for and avoid beauty products, perfumes, lotions and creams that are made from animal products. Read labels carefully before you buy.
6. Choose responsible, sustainable dining options. How seafood is harvested can have a negative impact on the environment. For example, scientists have been raising the alarms about salmon raised in floating fish farms. Restaurants in other countries may be serving threatened wildlife species because of lax conservation laws.
7. Don’t feed the bears! Interactive animal feeding attractions are harmful to wildlife because regular feeding habituates wild animals to be around humans, which puts them at risk. The expression ‘a fed bear is a dead bear’ is a strong reminder that when bears and other wildlife become used to humans they can be put in harm’s way. They are more likely to be hit by cars, eat toxic materials, and when the bears pose a threat to humans by coming too close for comfort (i.e.; approaching schools and playgrounds), they may be killed by conservation officers or relocated far away from the territory they are familiar with.
8. Don’t support the exploitation of wild or captive animals. Don’t participate in activities where you interact directly with animals such as swimming with dolphins or photos with ‘tamed’ wild animals. Sadly, many animals that have been domesticated in order to make them comfortable with humans were domesticated after being taken away from their mothers in the wild. Rodeos, animal wrestling competitions, and daredevil stunts with animals can cause unnecessary pain and suffering to animals that are being used for entertainment.
9. Leave the wild animals where they belong, in the wild. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t be buying exotic animals on your trip and bringing them home to be pets. But after seeing geckos scurry across the terrace of your hotel room, it might be tempting to want to buy an exotic pet once you get home. As the BC SPCA notes on its website about tourism, the market for wild exotics animals is big business that can fuel violence and feed drug and arms trade. Many animals that are captured in the wild and sold to buyers suffer greatly and many of them die before they reach the pet store. 1
10. Protect your own local wildlife when you come home. Here’s one last point about eco-friendly travelling: Even if one country allows live plants and animals to be exported, your home country may not allow them into the country. Live animals from other countries sometimes end up being let loose after being illegally imported and they end up wreaking havoc on local wildlife populations. Known as invasive species, these foreign plants and animals can kill off local species be devouring food supplies, taking over plant habitats and spreading diseases that local species can’t fight.
1. BC SPCA: www.spca.bc.ca/welfare/wildlife/issues/wildlife-tourism.html
Do you visit zoos and aquariums when you travel abroad?
Who's looking out for these zoo animals?
If you visit zoos and wildlife parks on your next trip, do some research ahead of time and find out how well the facility treats the animals in its care.
Why do you think that animal seems so tame?
Close-up photo opportunities with 'dangerous' animals such as lions, leopards, and tiger cubs perpetuates the poaching of mother animals in order to capture their young and domesticate them for tourist attractions.