Safaris have long been a popular attraction for tourists world-wide, but what are the positives and negatives when it comes to the impact on wildlife? Well, the truth is that it depends. Tourists would be wise to research their chosen safari first, as not all of them are reputable. For example, safaris and animal-attractions that advertise riding animals such as elephants, or selfies with lions and tigers should be avoided. There have been many negative reports about these industries as they use restraint and positive punishment techniques as well as, in some cases, drugging, to keep the animals docile and ‘in-check’.
However, this article will look at reputable, observational safaris, rather than animal-led tourist attractions that commoditise animals as property or entertainment. In other words, tourist events that take people carefully into wildlife habitats for observation and educational purposes only.
One of the best things about reputable safari experiences is that they are designed to educate people about the wildlife in the area. Education raises awareness around the population declines of certain animals, and the impact that poaching and trophy hunting can have on their survival. Awareness breed support and positive action, which can only be a good thig for the future survival of wildlife. You could argue that safaris are still intrusive of natural habitat. While that may be true to some extent, it is the way of the world now that humans must have access and observation to certain wildlife habitat in order to better understand how we can help them survive and thrive – especially for those species in danger of extinction.
The money from safari projects is also an important aspect to consider. One of the questions in your research before you attend should be around where the money for your tickets goes, what it is used for and what evidence they have to show you any positive outcomes. Many safari attractions will be able to and, in fact, more than happy to share this information with you. The ways in which safaris are good for wildlife survival is that a portion of the profits, if not all profits go towards animal conservations, research, habitat improvement and medical intervention for those who may require it. Again, attractions that promote animal handling, animal shows or animals being advertised in any way as entertainment beyond simply being observed are best avoided. The more funding these attractions get, the longer they will stay in business, and they are certainly not a good thing for the protection and survival of wildlife. Instead they ‘use’ the animals as commodities for profit.
So, what are the cons of safaris on the survival of wildlife and habitat? Well, indirectly, safari education could give helpful insight to those posing as tourists but who would otherwise be motivated to poach and/or trophy hunt. It is unlikely but possible. Most of the negative impacts and risks come with untrustworthy safaris. This is why we emphasise the importance of seeking out reputable safari providers and doing as much research as you can, including reviews and insider insights, where available. Another aspect to consider is that these animals are living in their own habitats as wild animals. This means that there is always an element of danger in encountering them. The problem with safaris is that the ‘protection’ methods involved in order to keep human observers safe could potentially involve the death of the animal involved. This is sad news considering the animal will likely be exhibiting natural, protective or aggressive behaviour and that we are responsible for taking these risks in the first place. However, incidents resulting in these circumstances are not common. But, in terms of weighing up the good and the bad in terms of wildlife survival – it is still an argument worth considering, as there could be alternative ways to conserve than running tourism attractions.
On the whole, the trusted and reputable safaris do good work towards enhancing habitat and research, as well as adding to the essential education needed to raise awareness of the decline in certain species and what people can do to help. Animal activists, on the other hand, may argue that conservation work can be done by alternative means. However, tourism is big money, so the positive here is that, if it works, the observational safaris that do the least harm by minimal interference aren’t particularly a bad thing.