We all know there are many beautiful places and amazing animals to experience on this planet. In fact most people ‘s holidays and getaways are based on everything nature has to offer. Spending time in nature and observing wildlife has many health benefits not to mention extreme mental and emotional pleasure. People travel all over the world to catch a glimpse of a polar bear, get their picture taken with a tiger or lion, or swim with marine animals. Wildlife tourism can be a massive force for both the environment and the animals if done in the right way. It highlights and brings a great deal of attention to conserving the environment, protecting the animals and their rights.
In many instances it provides a steady revenue to not only tour operators but also local populations that encourage personal and financial incentives to keep the environment and the animals safe. With social media used with such intensity, people are also being made aware of unfair or outrageous practices going on around the world. This gears people up to spring into action to make big changes in ecomanagement that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. There have been more than 100 research studies done on how some ecotourism affects the health and behaviours of wild animals. Unfortunatey the presence of humans around animals can create behaviour changes that may cause them direct harm or to be more vulnerable. Animals can become used to people observing them, so tend to let their guard down feeling humans are not a threat. This of course can give poachers a direct advantage when killing animals.
Whales swimming closely to viewing vessels became an amazing experience for those onboard taking photos. Watching them leap into the air and enjoy showing off their antics to the onlookers. That was of course until the whaling fleets came to kill them for scientific purposes????? where whales soon learnt they needed to flee from humans. Our presence in the wild, make it very difficult for natural predators to go about their business. Prey animals become complacent with the lack of predation and become bolder and more proned to be killed when a predator does appear. Blood tests have revealed that swimming with the stingrays at the popular “Stingray City’ in the Cayman Islands has caused poorer health and weaker immune systems making them more vulnerable to disease than those not disturbed by humans.The hand fed diets, and constant contact with people are contributing factors.
These normally solitary animals are now congregating in groups and have changed their natural feeding times. There are up to 2,500 tourists in the area at any one time who have paid a substantial amount of money to swim, feed and stroke these animals. What do you think the stingrays would rather be doing?