Often people don’t realise the role that many large travel agents play in the tours and volunteering opportunities they advertise. The branding of eco-tourism has become very fashionable and unfortunately many travels agents have taken advantage of this. Many ‘eco-tours’ have nothing ‘eco’ of note; although people book these products because they are motivated to decrease their negative impact on the environment, they are sometimes being sold a product that simply provides the agent with commercial profit. All to often, little or no consideration has been given to the environmental impact of the tourist on the area.
Eco-tourism and volunteering opportunities with wildlife are often offering irresponsible and dangerous practices, with products developed exclusively with the human’s satisfaction in mind, with little or no regard to what is in the best interest of the animal. Unfortunately, the Western tourist is generally not prone to investigate and question a situation: given our access to technology and the internet, this is rather inexcusable.
When travelling overseas and perhaps seeking encounters with exotic animals, please stop to consider the following points when presented with the chance for a photo opportunity, or up-close experience with an animal:
Tour operators and volunteering companies should ask themselves:
Are we taking people’s money in order to help the animals at the project site, or are we using the animals in order to make money?
As a prospective volunteer or tourist to see endangered wildlife, you may be looking at a plethora of different volunteering and tour options, and may perhaps be wondering if you should choose a project that would allow you to have contact and photo opportunities holding the animals, rather than one that does not. Perhaps you feel like you would get more out of the experience if you could have lots of physical contact with the animals
There are many projects that are doing valuable work for the benefit of endangered wildlife or habitats. Our advice when deciding on a project to participate on is: