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  • Writer's pictureLily Carlson

How to be a More Responsible Traveller: Wildlife Edition

As travellers, many of us look to enjoy experiences with wildlife, but it is important to remember the impact of our actions and how they can affect the well-being and conservation of these animals.

In this blog post, we're going to look at some of the ways we can be more responsible travellers when it comes to protecting our wildlife.

A telephoto lens can capture far away objects with accurate perspective and with a level of precise detail that was once only possible with close-range photography.

Seek out reputable organizations to help you observe wildlife correctly.

There are many ways we can safely observe wildlife and contribute to their protection and well-being. By doing our research and supporting reputable organizations and tour operators, we can support the local economy, help to pay staff and rangers who protect the animals and contribute toward the education of people regarding the importance of conservation efforts. A few tips to review the legitimacy of an organization is to read traveller reviews and check if they have an "animal welfare" policy or any certifications. You can also ask providers about what codes are enforced.

Image captured with a telephoto lens

Keep your distance

It's always important to remember that wildlife is wild. Respect the space of wildlife and keep your distance whether you're observing or photographing. Also, be sure to steer clear of businesses that charge you to take photos with animals. Not only does this contribute to the exploitation of wildlife but it also encourages bad welfare practices.

Be cautious around animals during sensitive times, including mating, nesting, or when they're mothering their young. Also remember not to feed, touch, or provoke the animals.

Tip: If you're interested in photographing wildlife during your travels, invest in a good telephoto lens. Telephoto lenses can capture subjects far away with great accuracy and detail, removing any need to overstep safe boundaries.

An encounter with a Nubian ibex during a hike in Israel. We kept our distance and simply observed.

Be wary of riding animals

As a general rule, remember that animals like elephants cannot be “tamed” without cruel treatment. Avoid riding them or supporting businesses that offer this activity altogether. When looking to ride other animals like donkeys or camels, be sure to do your research into the treatment of the animals, how they are cared for, and where the safest and most ethical place to take part in this activity might be. Never ride the animal if they are too young, too old, or pregnant.

We opted not to ride camels at the Pyramids of Giza and it was discouraged by our guide due to animal welfare concerns.

Leave no trace

A rule for protecting our environment, in general, is 'leave no trace'. This means respecting and preserving the environment by leaving natural elements where you found them, disposing of your waste properly, and being considerate of other visitors and inhabitants (this includes noise). By doing these things, we can help reduce any negative impact of our presence and keep our wildlife safe.

Image captured with a telephoto lens

Do not purchase souvenirs made from wildlife products or other threatened natural materials.

The illegal wildlife trade is, unfortunately, a thriving industry. It's also incredibly harmful to our planet. "Globally, wildlife trade is the second-biggest threat to the vital biodiversity of our planet, following habitat loss."* And while many countries and airlines prohibit the transportation of wildlife trophies and products, confiscating them upon discovery, the practice needs to be terminated with the consumer. The purchasing of souvenirs and products made from wildlife can have a considerable impact economically, socially, and environmentally. For one, it can directly or indirectly contribute to instability in countries that are already suffering by financing conflict (for ex. in Central African countries where some armed groups raise funds by poaching and selling animals).* Purchasing souvenirs and other products made from wildlife can also spread diseases, destroy ecosystems, and contribute to the loss of biodiversity.

Never purchase animal products you suspect might be illegal.

Image captured in 2012 at a market in Peru: A vendor selling illegal wildlife pelts

Remember that as travellers we have a responsibility to respect and care for local communities and the environment. But, we also have power. By not supporting organizations and tour operators who mistreat animals, we have the power to remove the demand for these harmful practices. If you see animals in poor conditions or being treated badly, be sure to report it to your guide or travel provider.

Our planet is filled with beauty beyond measure. Thank you for being part of the solution to care for and protect it. ❤️

Looking for more tips on responsible travel? Check out my blog post, "How to be a More Responsible Traveller."

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*Source: "Wildlife Trade 101". (2019). NRDC.


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