Wildlife tourism refers to the observation and interaction with local animal and plant life in their natural habitats.
It encompasses segments such as eco-tourism, safari tours and mountain tourism among others. Wildlife watching tourism occurs mainly in protected areas. Nature, national parks and wildlife are considered the most important tourism assets for tourists travelling for instance to Africa.
According to the UNWTO Report ‘Towards Measuring the Economic Value of Wildlife Watching Tourism in Africa,’ 7% of world tourism relates to wildlife tourism, a segment growing annually at about 3%. The same document shows that a total of 14 countries in Africa are generating an estimated US$ 142 million in entrance fees for protected areas.
A WWF report shows that 93% of all natural heritage sites support recreation and tourism and 91% of them provide jobs. For instance, in Belize, more than 50% of the population are said to be supported by income generated through reef-related tourism and fisheries.
Wildlife represents biodiversity, essential for our health and the well-being of the whole planet.
Wildlife represents biodiversity, essential for our health and the well-being of the whole planet. We live in an interconnected ecological system, where each macro- and microorganism, whether animal, plant or fish affects the other. Alteration of the natural habitat of any organism will trigger a dynamo effect, so non-equilibrium in the ecological system as a whole endangers the life cycle of many species. Around 40,000 species of animals, fungi and plants benefit humans. More than the third of our pharmaceuticals originate from wild plants
Wildlife remains a major concern for the international, regional and local communities. Among the multiple risks that menace wildlife are: diseases, climate change and actions of human nature, such as poaching and illegal trafficking. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List Index:
- Amphibians are declining most rapidly in Latin America and the Caribbean, partly due to the chytrid fungal disease,
- The greatest extinction risks for birds and mammals are found in South-Eastern Asia, mainly owing to the conversion of lowland forests.
- 7,000 species of animals and plants have been detected in illegal trade, and the list of species under international protection continues to grow.
Policy measures and higher sensitization of the general public and of specific stakeholders like media professionals appear as needed paths to ensure protection of wildlife and therefore of biodiversity. The engagement of printed, audiovisual and electronic and online media outlets in advocating wildlife as an essential component of biodiversity and as an added potential to tourism development by reporting professionally, accurately and comprehensively on this topic remains a major goal. The increased capacity of the media will enable a framework of action together with governments and civil society to improve wildlife and biodiversity protection.
A WWF report shows that 93% of all natural heritage sites support recreation and tourism and 91% of them provide jobs
Wildlife in the Agenda 2030
Besides been mentioned in the SDGs, wildlife and biodiversity have been placed at the core of most of the discussions of the Agenda 2030. The recent UN Biodiversity Conference (December 2016) was integrated by two Working Groups. Working Group I (WG I) addressed cooperation with other conventions and organizations; a global multilateral benefit-sharing mechanism under the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization; and socioeconomic considerations, liability and redress, risk assessment and risk management, and unintentional transboundary movement of living modified organisms (LMOs) under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.
The Working Group II (WG II) approved conference room papers (CRPs) on sustainable wildlife management, recommendations from the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), and climate-related geo-engineering. WG II further addressed marine debris and underwater noise, marine spatial planning, biodiversity in cold-water areas and pollinators.
Reasons for wildlife protection and conservation
For those still not convinced about the potential of wildlife, lets remind some of the benefits:
- Biodiversity: In nature, different species are connected through various food webs. The disappearance of one species could influence several others down the line.
- Agriculture: Promoting wildlife conservation could help secure future food supplies.
- Research: There may be many undiscovered plants and animals in the wild. 50 percent of the drugs available in the United States were originally developed from microbial organisms, plants, and animals.
- Economics of Eco-Services: ecosystem activities have an effect on the quantity and quality of fresh water accessible to humans.
- Ecotourism: enjoying African ecosystems has been a tremendous stimulus for economies within Africa.
- Environmental Indicators: various animals can serve as indicators for other environmental problems is one of the rarely discussed benefits of wildlife conservation. The loss of peregrine falcons and bald eagles was one of the factors that alerted scientists to the toxicity of DDT, unnoticed for longer in a less diverse ecosystem.
- Education: Studying animals and their habitats can be a valuable learning experience for students of all ages.
- Psychological Benefits: Ecotourists experience a tremendous sense of wonder, contentment, and fulfillment from their wildlife encounters.
Challenges in the wildlife global cause
- Trafficking in wildlife and their parts is a criminal international trade worth an estimated $20 billion a year
- Several iconic species —including elephants, rhinos, and tigers, as well as many lesser known species — toward the precipice of extinction
- Examples: The loss of African elephants: 100,000 over the past three years (96 elephants a day, with only 400,000 remaining in the wild across all of Africa).
- Fewer than 30,000 wild rhinos survive.
- A mere 3,200 wild tigers survive in the forests of Asia, including only 1,000 breeding females.
Areas of work, three central goals:
- Stopping the killing;
- Stopping the trafficking; and
- Stopping the demand