The pandemic is a welcome break for the travel industry to consider how it can better protect wildlife, a renowned conservationist has said.
Dr Jane Goodall, an animal behaviour expert, said: “It’s very fortunate there’s this pause and rethinking, and I think it had begun before the pandemic.
“As the world got wealthier and more people started to travel, they were destroying the world by sheer numbers. Culturally and environmentally, travel was going wrong.”
Goodall was speaking during the Retravel Live: Wildlife Deserve a Wild Life conversation with G Adventures’ founder, Bruce Poon Tip.
She identified two key ways to help conservation and animal welfare once the world started to “re-travel”, with managed measures in destinations and education at the time of booking about the visitor impact on animals.
“One of the things to avoid is more people - the secret is tourism that is controlled. The number of people that are allowed in and how long they can stay, and that is tough, but it has to be,” said Goodall.
She suggested the industry took an honest and educational approach with clients: “So many operators never talk about the negative side because they want the customer, so they paint a rosy picture and don’t tell people who might not go if they realise their going would be distressing to the animal.”
She said responsible tourism was good for animal conservation.
“One, it takes foreign exchange in, so the central government is happy. Two, it helps to pay the staff and the rangers who can actually protect the animals. Three, there’s no question that the people who go on these tours come back with a passion for helping conservation… So responsible tourism is something that’s necessary and important.”
Goodall said the lack of tourism during the pandemic had been detrimental to wildlife in some cases.
“One, the government or the national parks haven’t got the revenue coming in from tourism to actually pay the rangers who are there to look after the animals. And so the international cartels can come swooping in and kill an elephant or a rhino with very little opposition.
“But the other problem is local people were being paid by tourism as guides or in hotels and lodges. And they’re not being paid anymore. And so they’re going into the parks and poaching animals, just simply to keep alive, to eat.”
Goodall said Covid-19 had also proved too many people were getting too close to wildlife.
“This pandemic has shed light on the way we have mistreated and disrespected animals and the environment. We have brought this pandemic on ourselves by forcing animals into contact with humans as we destroy their habitat, hunting them, eating them, killing them, trafficking them, selling them for food for medicine, exotic pet trade, selling them as skins.
“And factory farms for domestic animals. All of these things create the perfect conditions for a pathogen, like a virus, to jump from an animal to a person.”