The first locally born guidelines on captive wildlife interactions, specifically developed in the context of Southern Africa’s landscape, were launched yesterday by the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA). The guidelines are the result of a year-long study and consultation with the wider tourism industry.
The travel industry and tourists alike are looking for ways to limit the impact of their actions and choices, especially when it concerns animal welfare and conservation. The sustainability of our tourism industry is based on the enjoyment of nature and wildlife in their natural habitat. “Animals in captivity for human enjoyment is not investing in this long term USP of Africa”, the SATSA guide states. “It is perverting it to satisfy the instant gratification, thrill seeking nature of visitors and the time pressures of the world they come from.”
The guide focusses not only on the ethical choices for both visitors and the tourism industry at large, but it also provides guidance on transformation of the captive wildlife sector and tourism industry underpinned by an ethical approach.
“We fully agree with SATSA that our understanding and knowledge of animal sentience and behaviour is progressing continuously and we need to use this insight to keep our tourism industry current and free of animal cruelty. This document will help the industry and travellers to make the right decisions and limit their impact on animal welfare”, says Fiona Miles (Country Director – Four Paws South Africa).
SATSA approaches the topic with a “line in the sand” classifying a set of attractions and activities involving captive wildlife as unacceptable that need to be addressed immediately. These are not only the most controversial, but also practices that are most likely to create reputational damage to Brand SA.
The tourism activities involving captive wildlife that are to be avoided, include performing animals, tactile interactions with ALL infant wild animals, walking with predators or elephants, tactile interactions with predators and cetaceans, and riding of wild animals. Eliminating these attractions from South Africa’s tourism offering will improve our international tourism reputation and competitive edge.
“SATSA made a bold move to shun away from the most unethical practices immediately, including the breeding of lions and tiger, canned hunting, the trade in bones and body parts, and exploitative tourism activities. The guide also deals with issues of misleading advertising, deceptive behaviour and lack of transparency that are all rife in the captive wildlife sector”, says Pippa Hankinson (Director - Blood Lions).
From this point onwards, the conversation as well as the social movement needs to move towards reforming the captive wildlife sector further, based on the guide’s ethical and integrative approach. The line in the sand is an advancing line moving towards a situation, where we may only have true sanctuaries and rehabilitation centres that attune the human interest in equal amounts to the animal’s interest.
“Whilst we appreciate that SATSA doesn’t have the directive to legislate or regulate the industry, they have clearly ‘set the stage’ for authorities, such as SA Tourism, Tourism Business Council of SA, National Department of Tourism, as well as the Departments of Environment and Agriculture, to work together to position South Africa as an authentic, wild eco-tourism destination”, Hankinson adds.
How SATSA will deal with members that offer animal attractions falling in the “avoid” category remains unclear. “However, we have taken a stand and through the power of market forces we believe there will be ripple effect through the industry, which will lead to the “Avoid” category activities being discontinued”, the organisation states.
“We congratulate the SATSA team on the huge amount of consideration that has gone into pulling together these guidelines. Finally #SayNoToInteraction is being heard and we have a unique document of which South Africa can be immensely proud”, concludes Linda Park (Director – Voice4Lions).
FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org.za