The Importance of Wildlife Tourism

I was going through some of my archived posts recently and noticed a trend, there  are a lot of pieces about animal experiences. From camels in Jordan to being kissed by a koala bear in Australia, it seems I always manage to gravitate towards wildlife encounters when I travel. It’s not a challenge for me then to incorporate animal-based tourism in my travel plans, but I think it’s something everyone should try to add to their travel routines.

I’ve always been an animal lover, I think it’s a common human quality. The need to be around and receive solace from other mammals is an important and basic trait most people share. Plus, I usually miss my dogs when I travel so hands on experiences are great to fill the void. More than just personal joy, wildlife encounters are great opportunities to learn more about the area I’m visiting.

Day tours are fine and traipsing around standard tourist spots are important, but there’s so much more to learn, especially how the natural history impacts the destination. Zoos, aquariums and animals experiences are the perfect way to make your trip more well rounded, while having fun at the same time.

Healesville Sanctuary
Healesville Sanctuary

While large zoos will almost always feature animals found around the world, they also tend to highlight local indigenous creatures. In Australia for example, just an hour from Melbourne is the Healesville Sanctuary.

Healesville started in the 1920s and since the very beginning has always been a research facility. It also evolved a unique tourist element, drawing visitors to witness firsthand the Australian wildlife on site. The Sanctuary was responsible for the first captive breeding of the platypus and is currently working diligently to protect near extinct endemic species.

Healesville is the perfect example of a wildlife attraction that does it right. It provides guests with unique opportunities (like feeding kangaroos and petting dingoes) but it also has a huge medical operation, saving animals around the region and expanding the medical knowledge of all Australian fauna. Visitors to the complex help support this conservation in a successful example of how responsible tourism can have a positive result.

Singapore Zoo
Singapore Zoo

This isn’t the case everywhere though, and visiting a zoo or wildlife facility can be a real test of one’s moral convictions, as I discussed in To Zoo or Not to Zoo.  It’s our responsibility as tourists to first determine which experiences actually help the animals and species involved, rather than hurt them.

It’s a natural inclination of those who are passionate about conservation to just pull back from all international animal experiences for fear of unknowingly contributing to their abuse. But ultimately this does more harm than good. By spending the time to research wildlife destinations and discovering which ones are truly beneficial, you are actively contributing to important conservation efforts in the destination. Without tourists visiting, many of these sanctuaries and refuges could not exist, and the good works would come to a grinding halt. I agree it’s important to avoid and decry the bad actors in the animal tourist sector, but I firmly believe that it’s just as irresponsible to avoid them altogether.

Whether it be in a zoo or a true experience like a safari, learning more about the indigenous wildlife of a new travel destination is fun, enlightening and makes us all better travelers. It’s one of the truly great activities suitable for any age and this love of wildlife is something that can bring any family together.

What are some of your favorite wildlife travel experiences?

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

7 thoughts on “The Importance of Wildlife Tourism”

  1. Wildlife and nature have always been what drives my travel passion. It’s hard to beat African safaris, but Orabfutans in Borneo were special to me.

  2. As a lover of animals big and small, wildlife has always been an important facet of travelling for me. Australia was magical, waking up and seeing wallabies outside my door in Victoria made me realize that native species and how they are treated define a people, and a culture.

    Thank you Matt

  3. Volunteering as a wildlife warrior in australia was the best experience I could have made with australian animals. The knowledge and the awareness I have gained about endangered native animals in a short time was amazing. I indeed can say that it made me a better traveller. And I hope to make more of these experiences in my future travels.

  4. Healesville is a great project and one that should be a blueprint for many wildlife sanctuaries. I recently visited an animal park in the French Pyrenees which showcased original indigenous species of the Pyrenees, unfortunately almost all no longer exist in the wild. Something which is common throughout Europe.

    Tourism needs to be carefully considered when it involves animals. Bringing tourists to see wildlife in preference to poaching in the Masai Mara or whale hunting in Iceland are obviously a better option. However when the animals are then stalked and harrassed almost all day we are only not really benefitting them or the communities that support them properly.

    Zoos have had bad press in the past and a few of them are still not exactly ideal habitats. I totally agree with your comments Matt; we the visitor being responsible for ensuring the wildlife ‘attraction’ we visit is fulfilling its obligations as a genuine sanctuary and taking proper care of the animals.

    Thanks for sharing an important post.

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