A safari is sacred. It shouldn’t be a zoo.
This is our honest opinion. Yet too often we are faced with the challenge of making any product on the market “affordable”. When it comes to nature, this can be the wrong approach with great risk to wildlife and nature that we claim to wish to protect.
Many of Better Safaris‘ clients are keen to travel responsibly and like us, want to avoid any type of travel that pushes wildlife to its boundaries. It can be a difficult task to avoid ethical boundaries 100%, because sadly, some activities simply aren’t available any other way – which poses another question about whether one should avoid them all-together.
There is much to consider when viewing animals…
Zoo’s are hazardous to nature
This may be difficult to hear and understand, but it must be said, because we have directly seen and heard many a dangerous assumption and speech from supporters of zoos & aquaria, which contradicts and indeed, endangers genuine conservation efforts of the natural world and wildlife viewing.
“Zoos are breeding so that one day these animals may be re-introduced into the wild.”
“Zoos are safe havens for these animals, otherwise they would just be poached in the wild.”
“There is no wild space remaining for wild animals.”
These are all statements from zoo advocates and all of them are factually false, misrepresenting our natural world and the issues wild animals face. In fact, there are still vast expanses of habitat, many of which are now more than ever, being protected as national parks, conservancies and national heritage. We are seeing within the conservation and tourism arenas, more and more local people becoming active in safeguarding nature – this is where protecting wild spaces starts. The seriousness of climate change has also brought about change in emphasis to safeguarding natural habitat, focussing on the importance of land, wetlands, trees, jungles, rainforests and more.
To assume that an animal would just simply be poached if left in the wild is also a huge assumption. It also begs the question- have you given up on saving animals in the wild? Because that would be a shame and a severe injustice to animals and the very foundation of what nature is, no? This mentality appears to be a subconscious learning, stemming from visiting captive facilities and taking on an assumptive assessment of the plight of animals, because we don’t generally see zoos educating visitors that animals would be poached if left in the wild.
Breeding animals in captivity is contentious and should not be seen as the saviour for wild animals that is projects itself to be. We can assess critically endangered animals (with so few numbers remaining) and the ability to successfully breed (and release) and if done correctly, can aid conservation efforts. But how about other “less endangered” animals such as the African lion, elephant, leopard, cheetah, gorilla and so on? Fact one is the ability to not only breed such animals in captivity, but the ability to successfully release them into the wild. Limited success has been achieved with cheetah, gorilla and more, and thus far, no project has ever released a captive bred lion into genuine wild spaces (though some projects have tried for the past 14 years without success).
Another critical issue is the poaching, capturing and rape of wild animals from their wild habitat, explicitly for the purpose of captivity. We’ve seen wild elephants captured in Swaziland for export to zoos in the United States, along with elephants, lions and hyena captured from the wild in Zimbabwe for zoos in China. The trade and (supposed) debt payoff in these situations, is having a direct negative impact on wild animals and thus, by visiting zoos and captive facilities, you may well be supporting this (very legal) trade in wild animals.
Culling & trade is a large part of captive facilities, zoos and aquaria and topics often not thought off by proponents of these facilities. In South Africa, canned hunting preys on captive bred lions as easy targets. One aspect of this dirty industry is how these same dead lions start off life by being forcibly bred in lion parks, who then offer cute baby lion cubs to volunteers to care for and tourists to pet & play and walk with, before eventually being sold or traded to the canned hunt organisers.
Read more: Activist Exposes South Africa’s Lion Park Scam
Zoos & aquaria have a responsibility to accurately educate the public and that does not appear to be happening. In fact the opposite is occurring, zoos are having a negative impact on wild animals. Why? Because zoos are a conveyer belt, in constant need of new animals, either through forced breeding or poaching, legal or otherwise.
DYK that many zoo’s in fact cull excess animals? Many instances are available online, such as the time Longleat Safari Park in England killed their lions due to forced breeding. This isn’t the first time and it happens more regularly than one would imagine.
We have to start re-considering our support for zoo’s, a system that is ultimately enslaving animals and notably, how a select few of “better” accredited zoos simply cannot be used to justify an entire system of cruelty, abuse, breeding and trade. Genuine animal lovers and carers for the environment should re-consider their support for any captive animal facility and the incorrect views they express towards wild animals in natural spaces. Knowledge is indeed power, but so is the wrong knowledge that is being obtained from captive facilities.
But aren’t safaris also invasive?
To an extent, of course they are. Whatever we buy, see or do in today’s world, is somehow connected to some form of exploitation; the phones we use with mined cobalt, the social media we speak on that supports a tech giant that doesn’t help control online bullying or propaganda, the food we eat that is either good or bad for us farmed using destructive techniques or working practices – it’s so difficult to avoid when we look closely at how we live our lives.
Which is why we believe in ethical safaris.
We can nit-pick everything we do – as we have all seen on social media – the moment you try advocating for one thing, a person will come along to highlight how much of a hypocrite you are. We are all hypocrites if we are going to take things so far that we end up not speaking up about an issue – that would get us nowhere. But what about safaris? As with everything, we want to be as light-footed on our planet as humanely possible and this applies to how we view wild animals.
Wild animals are habituated to the presence of tourists, ethically. Game drive vehicles aren’t seen as a threat to animals and this allows us those spectacular opportunities to view them, responsibly.
Here’s how we see our company and our safaris;
✔️ We’re vegan
✔️ We recycle, reuse and reduce
✔️ We only fly 1-2 per year, not every week or month
✔️ We promote travel during low/green season (fewer tourists, lower footprint)
✔️ We utilise green energy such as solar powered safari camps and electric vehicles
✔️ We use private reserves/concessions that helps reduce environmental impact + include local people in the tourism business model
✔️ Wildlife is only encroached upon enough to provide travellers with exceptional sightings, no more
✔️ We are 100% against trophy hunting and captive facilities that breed/trade animals. We support genuine animal rescue sanctuaries.
✔️ We only create safaris that benefit and positively contribute towards the environment and conservation
Does this make Better Safaris 100% ethical? Sadly no, as we believe that 100% ethical does not exist. We also understand that there are many varying opinions on many of these subjects. However, we can all but try our best to be as ethical, moral and positively impactful as humanely possible.
Too much confusion
On safari; from Better Safaris, to the various safaris camps, guides and staff, there is a clear direction towards responsible tourism impacting conservation. But we’re faced with a multi-generational confusion of ‘liking’ cute Instagram photos, or enjoying a TV show where “crocodile hunters” push the boundaries of wild animals – before we even question the legitimacy of what those images or shows may be portraying (or rather mis-portraying).
We are seeing an uptick in people interacting with animals – whether it’s beach goers cruelly posing for photos with a young dolphin, or zoo visitors climbing over fences to get close to animals – human actions are in direct contradiction to those of the safari industry. Acting responsibly seems to have become an afterthought that we are battling to overcome in order to have a genuine positive impact for the natural world.
Not everything can be cheapened and animals are one of those things. The cheapening of animals for zoo’s, not only allows for an abusive system, but downplays the importance of funding for conservation to the point where a safari, typically an expensive activity to do, is seen as overpriced. If safaris are now seen as overpriced, how can conservation truly be funded if the public are confused as to how they see animals in captive facilities, to how they view them in the wild? There’s no connection being made or promoted by zoo’s to their visitors, to sustaining wild animals in natural spaces.
Of key importance to conservation is funding, whether it’s to protect habitat, fund conservation projects or to ensure inclusivity for local people to be both active and to benefit from conserving wild animals. Through promoting zoo’s, where entrance fees are low and exploitation is high, we are placing an incorrect conscious thought into the minds of the public, when in fact the focus should always be promoting and sustaining life in the wild.
“I remember visiting London Zoo many years ago now and seeing a tiger pacing up and down his enclosure. I had no idea, primarily because zoo staff hadn’t properly educated me about it, that animals pacing up and down is a serious sign of mental stress. It was only when I began to advocate for animals and nature that I learned why.”
Read more: Zoo’s and repetitive pacing
We’ve allowed the public to become so far removed of what the natural world is, that promoting the wild can itself cause some sort of “fake controversy”. We’ve allowed supposedly reputable zoo’s host late night parties (and here), that ultimately are to the benefit of humans and not the animals. We’ve distanced ourselves so far, that we see nothing wrong with eating animals, with no thought spared for how abuse exists in all areas of the animal agriculture system, not to mention the hugely catastrophic impact animal farming has on our environment.
We are now at the point, where even as a company, we must be extremely accurate in what we promote for our safaris, carefully explaining to our clients what park fees are used for, why accommodation rates are high and why safaris are expensive overall.
This is tourism that should have existed many years prior, positively impacting (and involving) local people, communities, the environment and wild animals. Promoting a legitimate sustainability that doesn’t rely on abusive systems, but instead, focussed on lowering our footprint for the maximum benefit; physically, morally, ethically and financially, towards our natural world.
A safari shouldn’t be something travellers do every week, after all, it’s not a zoo.
Plan an ethical safari today
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