Seeing wild animals in their natural habitat is a fascinating experience. But some people are not satisfied. They want to ride on an elephant, pet an ostrich, and play with cubs. This practice is not ethical. Here, we look at wildlife encounters: the good, the bad, and the ugly. People should choose the good over the bad and the ugly. We should enjoy wildlife encounters in the wild. We should avoid any encounter that may put wild animals at risk.
What is Wildlife-based tourism? It is tourism that involves wildlife. Wildlife includes animal species in the wilderness. These animals are not domesticated. But wildlife tourism also includes animals in protected areas. Here, we are talking about animals in zoos and other shelters. So, we can say that wildlife-based tourism involves any type of tourism that includes animals.
Types of wildlife tourism
Game drives. You can see wild animals during game drives. You will see the animals in their natural habitat. You will use a Jeep or a safari van in the wilderness. Your driver will take you to spots where you can see your preferred animals.
Farms. You can see wildlife on farms. Some farms keep wild animals. They allow tourists to visit them and interact with animals.
Nature walks. Tourists engage in nature walks to see wildlife. Safari guides accompany tourists to ensure their safety.
Boat safaris. It is another form of wildlife tourism. Tourists enjoy closer views of animals in the water. This is the best form of tourism in Lake Nakuru, Kenya. You enjoy closer views of birds such as pink flamingos.
Rescue centers. Some people focus on rescuing endangered animals. This is also common in sanctuaries. A good example is David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Kenya. The center rescues and takes care of orphaned elephants. They make money just like Zoos. But they are not profitable. They use available funds to protect rescued animals.
Zoos and aquariums. Animals are usually kept in cages. Breeding and research projects take place in these places. They also rescue endangered animals.
Wildlife encounters: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Wildlife encounters: The Good
Tourists love wildlife encounters. Getting up close and personal with wild animals is such a fulfilling experience. Some types of wildlife encounters are amazing.
Tourists love swimming with dolphins. In Kenya, you can swim with dolphins on Diani Beach. It is such an amazing experience to encounter these animals in their natural habitat.
Seeing wild animals during a game drive. While on a game drive, a herd of elephants can appear from the bush. You can spot a leopard hunting prey. These are special encounters.
Tracking animals in the wilderness. This is one of the fascinating wildlife encounters. For instance, tourists enjoy tracking gorillas in the forest. They love it when they spot these wild animals in a thick forest. Tracking rhino also allows you to get closer to wildlife.
Contributing to wildlife conservation. It offers good wildlife encounters. You will have a closer encounter with wild animals. You also get to contribute directly to their conservation. You can help collar an elephant for monitoring purposes.
These kinds of encounters are good for tourists as well as wildlife. But some encounters are bad or worse.
Wildlife encounters: The Bad and the Ugly
Some wildlife encounters are bad and ugly. Let’s look at some of these encounters.
Wildlife petting. Some rescue centers pet wildlife, especially the young ones. They separate babies from their mothers. They use them for petting. This attracts tourists who want close encounters with wild animals.
But these babies are wild animals. They belong in the wild. They do not belong in captivity. Some centers keep snakes in tanks. They are not able to stretch or live a better life. Others keep parrots in small cages. In the wild, these animals are rarely alone.
It is also not possible to meet the needs of wild animals in captivity. They do not enjoy the freedom they enjoy in their natural habitat.
What happens when animals become dangerous in rescue centers? They are re-introduced in the wild. But this is a new habitat for them. They don’t know how to survive there. This puts them in danger. Hunters can easily kill them. This creates wildlife tourism problems.
Playing with animals. For closer wildlife encounters, tourists are allowed to play with wild animals. Some centers allow you to play with tigers and lions. This is bad because animals may be abused to satisfy tourists.
Animal riding. Some centers allow tourists to ride on wild animals. Elephant riding is a common activity. Some centers offer ostrich riding. Do you think it is ethical? Think about the weight of a tourist on the ostrich. Imagine an ostrich running up and down the entire day with humans on her back. Such encounters can lead to the mistreatment of wild animals creating wildlife tourism problems. While on safari, you should enjoy wildlife encounters. But some encounters are cruel and not ethical. These encounters sound good. For instance, it sounds great to enjoy an ostrich ride. Most people would love to touch ostrich’s beautiful and smooth feathers. But think about the harm that we cause. We mistreat wild animals just to feel good. Humans should be kind not just to each other but to wildlife too. We should all avoid bad and ugly wildlife enco