World-renowned ethologist and conservationist, Dr. Jane Goodall, has delivered a strong message for the travel industry, imploring and inspiring both agents and travellers with suggestions to better protect the world’s wildlife as the world starts to ‘retravel’.
Two key ways she identified are through the implementation of managed tourism measures in destination, and education regarding the wildlife experiences customers are booking and the reality of their impact on the animals involved.
Dr. Goodall’s comments were made during the Retravel Live: Wildlife Deserve a Wild Life conversation with G Adventures’ founder, Bruce Poon Tip, addressing the intersection between tourism and wildlife and how we can all do our part to help protect the creatures we share our planet with.
To start the conversation, Dr. Goodall acknowledged the current state of the travel industry and recognised the need for change: “It’s very fortunate there’s this pause and rethinking, and I think it had begun before the pandemic; some companies, like your company, realised we need to do things differently. 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.
“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 Dr. Goodall.
A number of questions were asked by agents about how to talk to customers about wildlife experiences to avoid disappointment in-destination, to which Dr. Goodall suggested an honest and educational approach: “So many operators never talk about the negative side because they want the customer, so they paint a rosy picture and don’t tell the people, who might not go if they realise their going would be distressing to the animal.”
Other key topics covered during the conversation between Dr. Goodall and Bruce included the importance of responsible travel for wildlife, the danger of over-tourism for animals, the increase in poaching as a result of reduced tourism following the pandemic, and the role tourism can play in curbing cruel animal traditions:
Responsible tourism is good for animal conservation.
Dr. Goodall believes that when we travel and observe wildlife correctly, we’re helping animal conservation in three important ways: “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.”
Too many people are getting way too close to wildlife
According to Dr. Goodall, the natural tendencies of many wild animals are being disrupted by the never-ending stream of tourists that insist on getting too close. “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.”
Poaching has gone up during the pandemic
While the lack of tourism during the pandemic has had some positive effects on wildlife, Dr. Goodall believes a couple of key factors have led to an increase in poaching. “Well, certainly in some places, the lack of tourism indeed has led to increased poaching, in two ways. 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.”
Travel can help stop cruel animal traditions
In some cultures around the world, causing harm to animals is part of celebrated traditions. Dr. Goodall believes travel and travellers have the power to put an end to such practices: “Those things have to change and tourism can play a major role by saying: “Well, if you continue to treat them that way, then we're not going to come and you won't get our dollars.”
Following the 40 minute discussion, Bruce Poon Tip also issued a personal challenge to the audience to help spread Dr Goodall’s important messages.
“Jane’s work is a legacy, the work she has done for the last 60 years, and it’s important we all carry that message now, beyond the chimps. The messages of peace and hope and the connection between wildlife and conservation. We’re all part of this planet, we have to share it and it’s about equality for all living beings.
“I challenge everyone to find three or four people and share that message. We are more powerful as a community and we can carry her message and help her legacy be known in our own communities,” concluded Poon TIp.
The Retravel Live: Wildlife deserve a Wild Life event was the second in G Adventures’ Retravel Live virtual event series, which sees leading figures from across the industry tackle the most pressing issues facing travel today. Calling on consumers, travel agents, suppliers and media to tune-in, Retravel Live will shine a light on the power of people to enact change and contribute to making the new way of travel better for everyone.
G Adventures has also updated its Jane Goodall Collection of wildlife-friendly tours for 2021. Launched in 2016, this programme of 20 trips was built in conjunction with the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada and the collection is endorsed by Dr Goodall.