G Adventures founder Bruce Poon Tip interviewed wildlife conservationist and primatologist Jane Goodall during a London Travel Week and WTM Virtual conference session.
It covered how tourism can better protect the world’s wildlife and why the pandemic has provided an opportunity to rethink how we travel.
“This pandemic has really given push to the way we have mistreated animals and the environment,” said Goodall.
“We brought this pandemic on ourselves by forcing animals into closer contact with humans as we destroy their habitat, hunting them, eating them, killing them, trafficking them, selling them for medicine and their skins – all of these situations provide perfect environments for a pathogen like a virus to jump from an animal to a person.”
Goodall also expressed the view that we should be cautious when talking about how the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting reduction in tourism numbers around the world has benefited wildlife, or in some cases allowed it to recover.
“In some places the lack of tourism has led to increased poaching,” said Goodall. “The government or national parks don’t have the revenue to pay the rangers who are there to look after the animals, and local people being paid by tourism such as guides and hotel staff are poaching simply to eat and live.”
“In some places [the pandemic has] benefited the animals, but in others it certainly hasn’t,” she added.
Goodall cited controlled tourism as the solution going forwards, recommending encouraging time limits on visitation and permits like the regulations African countries have introduced for wild gorilla watching. She said this type of responsible travel is “the secret”.
“It takes foreign exchange in, it helps pay the staff and the rangers who can protect the animals, and there’s no question that people who go on these [responsible] tours come back with a passion for conservation,” Goodall explained.
“Responsible tourism is something that’s necessary and important.”
The conservationist also urged travel agents and tour operators to stop sugar-coating travel to areas where the mistreatment of wild animals is a problem.
“So many operators never talk about the negatives because they want the customer, so they paint a rosy picture,” she said. “It’s your job to [tell the truth].”
“Never forget that every single day you live you make an impact on this planet and you have a choice as to what kind of impact that is.”