A New Global Benchmark Encourages Responsible Wildlife Watching for Tourists
World Animal Protection and the World Cetacean Alliance have joined forces to launch a groundbreaking global initiative aimed at changing the way people travel to see wildlife. The program, named ‘Wildlife Heritage Areas,’ seeks to provide tourists with exceptional and responsible wildlife tourism experiences. This initiative comes at a time when the ethics surrounding wildlife in zoos and aquariums are facing increasing scrutiny. By developing wildlife heritage sites, the goal is to meet the growing demand of tourists to see wildlife in their natural habitats. These sites allow travelers to explore destinations where local communities actively care for and protect wildlife, offering sustainable tourism experiences for the long term.
Angela Maldonado, the founder of Entropica, a conservation NGO and member of the Wildlife Heritage Network, highlights the Amazon Night Monkey Heritage Area as one of the prime examples. Spanning over 640 km² in Vista Alegre along the Colombian-Peruvian border, this area offers low-impact nature activities such as jungle hikes and wildlife viewing tours, all guided by knowledgeable locals. These local forest stewards play a crucial role in reducing external pressures faced by monkeys, including biomedical research and deforestation.
Another noteworthy example is the Apennines Marsican Bear Heritage Area in Italy, covering 1100 km². This area focuses on the critically endangered marsican brown bear, which holds significant importance in the local history and culture. By drawing attention to the vibrant and dynamic landscape elements, wildlife watchers are encouraged to appreciate and protect this iconic species.
Dylan Walker, from the Wildlife Conservation Area, emphasizes that wildlife heritage areas benefit both local communities and wildlife in responsible wildlife viewing destinations. By working in collaboration with local, philanthropic, and responsible tourism experts, these areas pave the way for a better future that focuses on culture, responsible tourism, and coexistence.
Currently, the travel industry lacks a standardized means of identifying destinations that adhere to the highest standards of responsible wildlife viewing. The Wildlife Heritage Area Program aims to change this by establishing a comprehensive benchmark.
Nick Stewart, the Wildlife Campaign Director at World Animal Protection, expresses enthusiasm for co-establishing wildlife heritage areas as a solution to exploitative wildlife tourism. He urges travel companies worldwide to abandon abusive wildlife entertainment experiences like elephant rides and dolphin shows, and instead, pursue genuinely responsible wildlife tourism that prioritizes the needs of local communities, visitors, and animal welfare.
Moreover, Wildlife Heritage Areas create new opportunities for visitors to engage with the unique culture, heritage, and biodiversity underlying each local community’s wildlife offering. This, in turn, helps generate pride and income to support responsible wildlife conservation efforts and habitat preservation.
Harry Ekman, CEO of World Cetacean Alliance, highlights that Wildlife Heritage Areas are an exciting evolution of the successful Whale Heritage Areas program. These areas provide communities with a unique platform to showcase their heritage and connection to amazing species and environments. Simultaneously, they offer tourists an incredible opportunity to experience wildlife in the most inspiring and responsible ways possible.
Current Wildlife Heritage Areas include the Plettenberg Bay Whaling Heritage Area (nominated) and the Algoa Bay Whale Heritage Area (nominated) in South Africa, the Amazon Night Monkey Heritage Area (candidate) in Peru/Colombia, the Amazon Ucari Heritage Area (candidate) in Brazil, the Apennines Marsican Bear Heritage Area (candidate) in Italy, the Whitsunday Whale Heritage Area (candidate) in Australia, the Santa Barbara Channel Whaling Heritage Area (new designation) in the USA, and the Madeira Whale Heritage Area (new designation) in Portugal.
1. What is the Wildlife Heritage Areas program?
The Wildlife Heritage Areas program is a global initiative launched by World Animal Protection and the World Cetacean Alliance. It aims to change the way people travel to see wildlife by providing exceptional and responsible wildlife tourism experiences in destinations where local communities actively care for and protect wildlife.
2. How do Wildlife Heritage Areas promote responsible wildlife watching?
These areas are specifically designed to meet the growing demand of tourists to see wildlife in their natural habitats while ensuring sustainable tourism experiences for the long term. By highlighting the importance of local communities and involving them in conservation efforts, Wildlife Heritage Areas encourage responsible wildlife watching practices.
3. Why is it important to have a benchmark for responsible wildlife viewing?
The travel industry currently lacks a standardized means of identifying destinations that adhere to the highest standards of responsible wildlife viewing. By establishing a benchmark through the Wildlife Heritage Area Program, tourists can make informed choices and support destinations that prioritize animal welfare, local communities, and sustainable tourism.
4. How can tourists contribute to responsible wildlife tourism?
Tourists can support responsible wildlife tourism by choosing destinations recognized as Wildlife Heritage Areas. By avoiding exploitative wildlife entertainment experiences and engaging in activities that prioritize animal welfare and conservation efforts, tourists can positively impact local communities and wildlife.
5. What are the benefits of Wildlife Heritage Areas?
Wildlife Heritage Areas provide benefits both to local communities and wildlife in responsible wildlife viewing destinations. They generate pride and income for responsible conservation efforts and habitat preservation, while also offering tourists unique cultural experiences and the opportunity to engage with diverse wildlife in inspiring and responsible ways.
Please note: The Wildlife Heritage Area Program is continually expanding, and additional areas are being nominated and designated through the application process.