On International Day for Biological Diversity (22 May), we are reminded that ‘we’re part of the solution’ #ForNature, where tourism can be a force for good.
From the air that we breathe, the water we drink, to the food that we eat, we all rely on biodiversity. It refers to the variety of life on Earth – beginning with the genes that define the millions of different species of plant and animal, and their communities, within a wider fabric of interconnecting relationships in a physical environment, which we commonly called ‘Nature’. As with all other animals, humanity is part of it, reliant upon it, and due to our global dominance, we are its problem, as well as its solution.
The travel and tourism sector already know the importance of nature and what it uniquely brings to many travel destinations across the world. Nature is integral to our prosperity and wellbeing, but it also supports human development and equality, our resilience to viral pandemics and climate change1, and supports the lives of millions of other species. In fact, The World Economic Forum estimates Nature’s economic value generation at US$44 trillion2 – over half of the world’s total GDP!
Ironically, it is the improved global economic growth, the rise in living standards and increased demand for natural resources over the last 50 years that has directly driven biodiversity loss3:
- Land-use change – the conversion of land cover (e.g. deforestation), a change in eco-system management (e.g. intensive farming), or changes to landscape configuration (e.g. fragmentation);
- Over-exploitation of natural resource – overfishing, hunting, and logging, including the harvesting of species for traditional medicine and the pet trade;
- Climate Change – global warming changing climate and weather patterns that then impacts on ecosystems;
- Pollution – nitrogen deposition through fossil fuels and fertiliser causing ecological changes;
- Invasive species – introduced species displacing native wildlife and disrupting natural ecosystems.
Poorly managed, and tourism contributes to all five of these direct drivers of biodiversity-loss. However, when better managed: seeking to minimise negative impact, and maximising the value given to nature and its biodiversity, tourism can ultimately be a force for good.
In fact, there is an opportunity for the travel and tourism sector to do much more than just count and reduce carbon output, there is an opportunity to better protect animals and regenerate the natural systems that naturally absorb carbon and bring back stability to life on Earth.
ANIMONDIAL, the specialist consultancy, supports the travel and tourism businesses to better protect animals and nature. Its impartial guidance and community-led conservation projects offer a means for the tourism sector to review and improve their activities and embrace the “silver bullet”4 to lessen biodiversity-loss and climate change, and save ourselves.
This “Endangered Species Day” (21 May), as we stop for a moment to consider the fact that more than 37,000 species are now threatened with extinction5– there is no more pressing a time to do what we can to better protect animals and nature.
What can I do to better manage my impact on animals and nature?
Reduce your company’s negative impact on nature
- Adopt animal welfare and protection principles, advocated by ANIMONDIAL, and offer only responsible tourism activities with animals and respectful wildlife viewing practices that uphold good welfare standards. Receive a bespoke service from ANIMONDIAL.
- Evaluate, or audit, all your tourism activities / experiences that involve animals to identify and measure risk, end inappropriate activity, and seek to improved standards in animal welfare.
- Discourage your suppliers from sourcing animals from the wild; unless there is a demonstrable and justifiable conservation need. If in doubt, contact the national CITES Management Authority6.
- De-list tourism activities / experiences that involve the hunting of wild-born or captive-bred animals for the purposes of sport, trophy, or entertainment.
- Request that your suppliers do not commercially trade, breed or exploit their animals (this includes zoos, aquaria, animal sanctuaries, rescue centres and orphanages7).
- Product procurement teams and Destination Management Companies should inform all suppliers to ensure they do not sell or promote the sale of any of these unsustainable wildlife products. Refer to the European Commission’s Wildlife Souvenir’s Guidevii and use tools to identify threatened species8,9.
- Ask your customers not to pick up, collect or buy animals or parts of animals (including corals, sponges, shells, etc.) or plants (including orchids, seeds, seedlings, etc.) from the wild. Use online tools to identify the conservation status of the species involvedi, vii, viii.
- Ask your airline partners not to transport live animals, trophies or products derived from animal or plant species that are listed under CITES Appendix I or classified as ‘Critically Endangered’ or ‘Endangered’ by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.
Maximise your protection and restoration of nature
Select one of ANIMONDIAL’s trusted, community-based animal protection initiatives through its Animal Protection Network10. Such as Ape Action Africa, that protects gorillas and chimpanzees, supporting local livelihoods, and protecting primary forest. The following video features Alex Benitez, Sanctuary Manager at Ape Action Africa, Cameroon, and provides an introduction to the organisation.
Collaborate with others to make a difference
- Sign up to ANIMONDIAL’s Build Back Better for Animals initiative and receive a 30-minute FREE consultation and discounted services.
Changing our relationship with nature is too great an issue to be left to the scientists and policymakers. We must all take responsibility, end destructive activity, and strive to return what we have lost. Business (no matter the size) has a crucial role to play, by putting nature at the core of their activity and decision-making, assessing, mitigating, and managing animal and nature-related risk.
ANIMONDIAL is here to help you identify tangible actions that are right for your business. Contact us today.
- World Economic Forum (2020) COVID-19 and nature are linked. So should be the recovery.
- World Economic Forum (2020) Global Risk Report
- Steffen, W. et al. (2015), “Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet”, Science, Vol. 347/6223, pp. 1259855-1259855
- Professor Schellnhuber, Director Emeritus at Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, ITB Berlin 2021
- IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM
- UNEP-WCMC & CITES Secretariat, providing information on C US Fish and Wildlife Service, CITES permits and certificates
- ANIMONDIAL (2019) Animal sanctuaries: more than just a name
- European Commission, The Wildlife Souvenirs Guide
- ANIMONDIAL (2020) Animal Protection Network
World news during the COVID-19 lockdown has been full of reports documenting what appears to be a revitalised nature. As human activity – industry, transport, and tourism – has stopped during global lockdown, levels of air, water and noise pollution have dramatically dropped, and nature has taken advantage. So much so, there have been encouraging reports of rewilding of urban areas. Where wildlife, from coyotes, spotted at the Golden Gate Bridge, to deer, wild horses and boar seen gazing in downtown Washington DC, Izmir and Barcelona, to dolphins observed swimming in Istanbul’s Bosphoros and the canals of Venice, have seemingly taken advantage of the lack of humans.
In my last blog, I considered humanity’s negative impact on nature and how our activities are causing heightened loss of biodiversity, which in turn, threatens our own existence. Now that human activity is reduced, due to the COVID-19 lockdown, it presents a unique opportunity to see if, and how nature will take back control, but further how humanity can better manage its negative impact on nature.
For instance, the lack of tourists visiting national parks may well have stemmed the tide of negative impact caused by ‘overtourism’, but the lack of tourism revenue has resulted in park staff losing their employment, ending anti-poaching patrols and wildlife monitoring, and local people, their livelihoods. However, this has caused other pressures, with conservation NGOs raising the alarm that threatened wildlife are suffering from heightened illegal logging and wildlife poaching.
ANIMONDIAL’s Animal Protection Network partner, the Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation recognises both the positive and negative consequences of the pandemic:
“Whilst COVID-19 has greatly impacted our research and conservation work due to travel restrictions, this unique situation has provided a unique opportunity to monitor marine ecosystems, which for the first-time face reduced human impact and minimal underwater noise pollution. It has also given Archipelagos more time to devote to the continued development of the Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary. Once complete this will provide refuge for dolphins, seals, and sea turtles threatened by the immense impact of human activity on our seas and our planet overall.”
Elsewhere, wildlife reliant on humans for food, have ventured into urban areas in search of food. The deer from Japan’s Nara Park and primates in Lopburi Thailand, who are usually fed by tourists, have invaded city streets during the lockdown to find food. Their dependency on ‘free’, and likely calory-rich foods, from people has altered their natural feeding behaviour.
Whereas animals kept in a captive environment, who are also dependent on people for food, but lack the freedom to search for it themselves, are completely dependent on their carers. However, their presence, and the quality of care they provide is often dependent on revenues raised through ticket sales, government subsidised and donations, which have all but stopped the last three months.
This sense of purpose and responsibility for animal protection is evidenced by one of ANIMONDIAL’s partners, Ape Action Africa, a sanctuary for rescued primates in West Africa:
“Our initial challenge was to do everything possible to protect our rescued primates from the risk of COVID-19. Enhanced health and safety protocols were put in place, and our team began living permanently on-site; education and community programmes were suspended, and our doors were closed to the public. Though these steps have so far been effective in keeping our endangered gorillas, chimpanzees and monkeys safe, their future is by no means secure. Our income has dropped dramatically, and we are facing the biggest funding crisis in our history. We have cut our costs as far as possible, but we have to provide care for our 280 rescued primates, and our financial reserves are rapidly diminishing. We would ask anyone who is in a position to support our work to please donate and help us keep caring through these incredibly challenging times.”
Equally, the lack of tourism revenue has been tough on animal-based attractions. Reports from Thailand reveal that most of the 300+ elephant tourism venues have closed. The lack of income and restrictions on business operation has meant that many of the elephants have had to leave the venues and return home. This includes the elephant “centrals” like Ban Taklang Elephant village in East Thailand. Here the elephants’ sustenance and shelter has become the responsibility of their original owners who, before the pandemic, had survived off the rent of their elephants to the tourist camps. Now with no income, their future, that of their families and their elephants are becoming increasingly desperate.
If these hardships continue, only the most resourceful will survive. As demonstrated by ANIMONDIAL partner, the Mahouts Elephant Foundation, which runs ethical elephant-based experiences in northern Thailand:
“Overnight there was a complete stop in guest bookings that included international school groups, our own annual study abroad field course and some ground-breaking exciting research. All income came to an abrupt halt which is a huge challenge for any organisation. Whilst we have re-scheduled some bookings for later in the year, it will take some time for things to return to pre-pandemic normality. We are a highly skilled team on the ground and I am so incredibly proud of our team for re acting with professionalism and a passion for the work we do, everyone without exception has pulled together and due to some emergency funding we are keeping our whole team intact. We are continuing with planned infrastructure work, offering those in the community intensive English lessons and teaching mindfulness to key members of the team. We are excited to re-launch our guest programme as soon as travel is open again.”
Whilst it is fair to say that wildlife in the wild has had some respite from destructive human interference, it is perhaps premature to state that nature as made a comeback. However, these 100 days have given us a chance to take stock and change the way we think about change. Ultimately, whether this pandemic is good or bad for the environment depends not on the virus, but on humanity. As lockdowns are eased across the world, we have a choice of returning to unsustainable ‘business as usual’, or to take responsibility for our actions, protect nature, and work towards a better future.
ANIMONDIAL seeks a better world, where tourism is kind to animals. During COVID-19 pandemic, it is offering non-profit organisations access to FREE support and guidance through its ANIMAL PROTECTION NETWORK. Whilst tour operators have the chance to include responsible alternative animal activities in their holiday offerings. If you are interested in finding out more, drop us a message.