IMELDA BELL | CONSERVATIONIST | ECO TRAVEL
RESPONSIBLE AND ECO FRIENDLY TRAVEL ADVICE
As travel corridors slowly start to open up, and travel & tourism slowly become viable, I feel it is important to share some ways in which you can enjoy time abroad, but also think about the environment, your carbon footprint and respecting out planet and wildlife.
We often enjoy time with nature, whilst we have a break from our daily lives, whether it is on a beach, near a lake, in a forest, on the savannah or even in a city. Most places rely on tourists, but before you hand over your hard earned cash, have a think about the ethics of the company you are paying and how they consider the environment and ecosystems around them.
Like many other people, I have done things on holiday in the past, which I now realise were cruel and unethical. I swam with captive dolphins on holiday many years ago, without thinking how those beautiful creatures were being treated, so I am certainly not one to point fingers, as I have made mistakes too. There is no point in holding on to the guilt I now feel at having supported this industry in ignorance, but it is important to me to now make others aware of the atrocities faced by many animals in the tourism industy. If you have cuddled baby tigers or lions, swam with large mammals, riden or posed with elephants in the past, etc. don’t feel bad about it now, but make sure you spread the word, so that your friends and family know that many of these close encounters with seemingling “tame” wild animals, are simply those which have been abused and have been broken and beaten into submission.
Protecting the Planet
Take only photos and leave only footprints.
As a general rule, do not take anything from nature and do not leave anything behind.
Don’t scare, touch or feed any wild animals or birds
Don’t disturb nests or dens
Do not pick any flowers or plants.
Take all your litter home or dispose of it properly.
Don’t wander off designated paths, as this can harm vegetation and cause erosion.
Do not ride elephants
- Asian elephants are endangered and the more that are taken from the wild, the smaller their chance of survival.
- The elephants are not tame, they have had their spirits broken and are often cruelly treated and beaten into submission. The way these animals are treated is awful. There are recent reports of elephants in Thailand being left chained up and starving.
- They often endure more physical abuse being trained to perform tricks.
- Elephants are not meant to be ridden and riding them can damage their spines and stunt their growth.
- The chairs used as saddles add extra weight and can case sores.
Do not participate in animal encounters that allow you to enter the enclosures of wild animals
There are places that allow allowing tourists to enter enclosures for to get up close and personal with wild animals. Repeated handling and close proximity to people can cause stress for animals.
- These animals are often poorly treated
- They have often had teeth and claws removed
- They are frequently drugged to keep them docile for tourists
- There living conditions are often of very poor standard.
- When they are no longer cute and cuddly, they may be killed or end up as an easy kill for a trophy a hunter wants to hang on their wall.
Do not visit animal shows or a circus featuring wild animals
- These animals are often fed a bad diet
- They have poor living conditions
- They may be poorly treated or abused
- Dolphins, whales, etc. suffer mentally and physically in captivity.
- Do visit wildlife sanctuaries which breed endangered wildlife and send animals back to the wild.
- Do visit aquariums that don’t contain large species.
- Do report any animal cruelty you witness. (The Born Free Foundation has a traveller’s animal alert initiative, where you can send in any concerns and photos. You can also find more information in their pdf download)
Reduce your Carbon Footprint
The carbon dioxide we produce is contributing to global warming and travel and tourism generate lots of it. There are ways we can reduce this though.
- If your destination is not too far away, don’t fly there. Trains are good options for single travellers, and even a family in a car will generate way less CO2 than that family flying.
- If you need to fly, try and use direct flights to minimise the number of journeys by plane and reduce the miles and therefore fuel which is used for your trip. The majority of CO2 is produced during take off and landing, so the less flights, the less impact you will have on the environment.
- Pack light – heavier baggage uses more fuel to transport it.
- Consider using public transport rather than a car when you reach your destination.
- Conserve energy by turning down the heating or air conditions a little bit and switch off lights and electronics when you don’t need them.
- If your hotel room doesn’t need cleaning and you can reuse your linen and towels, leave the ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door. This saves energy and water, not to mention chemicals.
- Try and eat local food, which has not had to be imported.
- Imported food needs to be transported at a cost to the environment, energy needed to refrigerate it and the extra packaging to protect it on a long journey. Eating local also supports local famers.
- Reduce Waste
- It is easy to over-indulge and over-order on holiday, but the amount of carbon emitted in the food production chain is huge, so uneaten food is not only a waste, but the emissions from producing it were for nothing too. The food also ends up in landfill and rots, producing methane.
- All you can eats buffets are a huge waste of food, as lots of it is thrown away, so avoid these where possible.
- Buy local crafts as souvenirs and support the local people in doing so, rather than buying tacky, mass-produced items which you will probably never use.
- Try and stay in eco friendly accommodation
- Lastly, you can offset the inevitable carbon footprint your holiday will have, by contributing to one of the may carbon reduction projects around the globe.
Most responsible wildlife conservation holidays involve little hands-on contact with animals; so don’t expect to be cuddling cute babies. Wild animals are wild and should not be dependant on people, so the most valuable experiences are those where you make a difference by seeing the animals in the distance. It is hard work, but fun and rewarding knowing you are making a difference to the animals and the planet alongside like-minded people.
Before handing over your hard earned cash to an organisation, check that it is ethical.
- Is it working to create long-term solutions for the wildlife?
- How are the funds used and does a percentage do back to the local community?
- Which other organisations support the organisation for whom you wish to volunteer?
- Are all volunteers taught about the challenges the animals and local community face?
- What skillsets do they require that you may have?
- Can you speak to people who have previously volunteered?
- Is there documented evidence of the projects working?
- What advice is given before you travel to volunteer?
- What support is available if things go wrong?
- Does the organisation have a responsible tourism policy?
If an organisation won’t answer your questions, then it is best to look elsewhere for your volunteering opportunity.
These are just a few ways you can help the planet and the flora and fauna which lives alongside us. If you have any more tips, please add them in the comments.
(Please note that the animals in my photos are not examples of badly treated animals, and the elephant and the girl were not in close proximity, the image was created using Photoshop)
Fingers crossed that we can all travel freely again soon. When you do, remember to cherish our beautiful planet and protect everything on it.