It is our responsibility to make sure we are making the right ethical and advisable choices.
We actively encourage understanding and empathy for the wildlife and habitat that entertain us, or that we are observing in a project or working for –there be in remote conservation or wildlife parks, community conservation areas or zoo habitats. The goal? Becoming an ethical visitor and observer.
Yes, we are there for our experience but also and hopefully for building our knowledge. Understanding is about keeping an open mind and trying to view the bigger picture -the ecosystem, culture, community, wildlife and how all this plays a part in the habitat and environment.
Think about this – Many species live only in specific habitats such as estuaries, coral reefs, sand dunes or the open ocean. Seasonal and daily cycles also influence when and where an animal may be located. Generally, the distances and codes of conduct for observing a harbor seal, a humpback whale, a gorilla, elephants, lions, pandas differ greatly. Know about them. It is our duty to make sure we have this knowledge prior to experiencing the site. So prior to any of such endeavor, read about the wildlife, about the viewing sites and the local regulations to get the most from your wildlife viewing experience. There are far more observation regulations than you think exist, but most viewers don’t know about that (e.g., Wildlife viewing guidelines and regulations examples). Research on the internet, review the Earthwise Aware Explore and Prepare guides, get in touch with us (we will always be glad to help when we can), buy regional viewing guidebooks, talk with local residents and hire local guides to increase your chances of seeing marine wildlife.
⚠ Let’s take the case of the elephant viewing in Uganda we featured in 2016 [BS-16]. If these tourists had dropped their cameras for just one minute and thought of how the elephants were feeling then maybe that experience would have been of respect on both sides.
How to develop and facilitate this understanding? Learn before you go and prepare! Acquire the necessary knowledge before you go. Remember that it’s not just learning about the wildlife but the habitat and community /culture as well. Never solely rely on the guide: you have to be able to challenge him/her (also respectfully), and you have to be able to assist and help him resist the pressure from your fellow tourists and viewers who will want to go closer, to touch, to get a reaction which invariably happens these days [BS-16]. In all cases, you will enhance your experience both at the safety and the satisfaction levels by ‘knowing’.
Gaining knowledge results in understanding that Minimizing Us and Maximizing Wildlife should be the ultimate goal of our wildlife experience gaining an even greater moment for all.
Now let’s practice Wildlife viewing together observing some simple Wild Rules of conduct…