Global call to end wildlife encounters

Posted on 4 June 2020

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is being called on to put a stop to close-counter wildlife encounters.

Approximately 240 international organisations have called on UNTWO’s Global Tourism Crisis Committee to put a stop to these encounters, of these 13 are from South Africa.

In a statement, Louzel Lombard Steyn from Blood Lions said: ‘Conservation groups from South Africa and around the globe have called on the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and their Global Tourism Crisis Committee to phase out close-contact wildlife encounters and entertainment practices in tourism to help build a more resilient and sustainable industry going forward.

‘This as the world continues to navigate the aftermath of the emergence of a novel zoonotic disease. It is believed that COVID-19 originated at a wildlife market in Wuhan, China, where it was transmitted from bats to endangered pangolins and then to humans. It’s not the first time such a human-wildlife transmission has occurred and, as experts predict, it won’t be the last.

‘As a country dependent on tourism for economic stability and employment, South Africa’s tourism industry simply won’t survive another catastrophic zoonotic disease spill-over.’

Read: Jane Goodall’s warning for humanity

An increase in social media posts of wild animal interactions, as well as shows like Netflix’s Tiger King, have spurred the desire to experience these moments.

‘Wildlife interactions are an integrated part of tourism, accounting for up to 20-40% of international tourism globally. However, as the letter states, the industry is also a reservoir for new zoonotic diseases and relies on keeping wild animals in closely confined spaces to be handled, fed, posed with, walked with, ridden or watched as they perform.

‘Often, the animals involved also suffer due to poor welfare conditions, which undermines their immune systems and accelerates disease emergence and spread. While the era of circuses and zoos seems to be losing traction, a new, more nuanced wave of exploitation continues in the online realm, where ‘wildlife fame’ is on the rise.

‘Between 2014 and 2017, the number of wildlife selfies posted on Instagram increased by 292%. More than 40% of these involved hugging, holding or close-contact interactions with wild animals. Apart from the immediate dangers, such as losing an arm or being mauled to death.

Nick Stewart, the Global Head of Wildlife Campaigns for World Animal Protection, said” ‘The risk of transmitting potential zoonosis must be considered a significant public health risk.’

Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA) wants to be on the right side of history in terms of this issue.

Responsible Tourism Committee Chair, Keira Powers said: ‘Wildlife remains the bedrock of South Africa’s tourism, and we have the privileged position of offering tourists engagements in authentic settings. A UNWTO-led tourism recovery plan with strong, ethical recommendations around captive wildlife will bolster local tourism authorities’ efforts to create a more sustainable, ethical and responsible tourism industry around the globe.’

‘A ‘coordinated global effort’ is what the open letter to the UNWTO and the nearly 240 signatories ask for; to ‘grow back better’ in building a resilient and safe tourism industry for the future – for both humans and wildlife,’ concluded Steyn

Read the open letter here.


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This is not cute 🚫 Big cats used as tourist attraction for selfies in many “sanctuaries” and “tiger temples” are often bred and kept in substandard facilities. When they grow too big for human interaction, they often fall victim to “canned hunting”, where they are shot by hunters in a confined area.⁠ .⁠ If you can hug, ride, or take a close-up selfie with a wild animal, chances are there’s hidden cruelty involved. Don’t go.⁠ .⁠ .⁠ .⁠ .⁠ .⁠ #worldanimalprotection #animalprotection #protectanimals #animalcharity #animalactivism #lionselfie #wildlifeselfie #lion #lions #lioncub #cuteanimals #animallover #loveanimals #helpanimals #responsibletourism #ecotourism

A post shared by World Animal Protection UK (@world_animal_protection_uk) on

Image credit: Instagram/ world_animal_protection_uk


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