'These practices have gone unregulated for too long': The crucial stance SA needs to take on animal encounters

2019-04-25 06:30 - Selene Brophy
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Three lionesses resting in the bush in the Maasai

(PHOTO: iStock)

Enriching experiences, lasting memories and itineraries that benefit not only the traveller but the communities that serve them - this are the responsible-tourism order of the day. 

As a result, the contentious issue of animal interactions continues to be weigh heavily across South Africa's travel and tourism landscape. A topic of debate for a number of years, especially with SA's rich Big Five heritage and how wildlife acts as a draw-card to our destination. Now the issue is again being raised by Southern African Tourism Services Association (SATSA). 

WATCH: All out Kruger battle as buffalo fights lions and crocodile

“The voice against tourism experiences that include animal interactions has grown louder and louder and this has impacted on how South Africa is being perceived as a tourism destination,” says Keira Powers, Chairperson of the Southern African Tourism Services Association (SATSA) Animal Interaction Committee.

SATSA is in the process of conducting national public consultations workshop, as part of its Animal interactions study - click here to see the online survey - before it closes on 30 April.

“SATSA has been tasked by its members to develop guidelines for animal interactions in tourism. The Animal Interaction research is member mandated, board approved and being run in partnership with South African Tourism.” adds Powers

This follows two months in which they hosted ten workshops across the country. The consultation phase is now moving online with the workshop content available at this link. Click here to view the content. 

"We would like to encourage all interested parties to watch our video and to then complete a questionnaire providing feedback and suggestions."

SATSA’s says it remains an impartial arbiter of the process as it seeks an ethics-based solution by conducting the study. 

Commenting in response to consultation process Blood Lions, who has been championing the ill-effect of canned lion hunting and lion cub petty in South Africa and globally,  commended SATSA for beginning a discussion on the exploitative use of wildlife within the wider tourism industry.

UPDATE: Blood Lions applauds hunting club's stance on canned lion hunting

"These practices have gone unregulated for too long. This has enabled a lucrative industry, encompassing the intensive breeding of wildlife for various commercial activities such as 'cub petting', 'walking with lions' and interactive filming, to establish itself on a host of facilities across South Africa.

Blood Lions says "while guidelines are a good start, the organisation is still calling for a complete ban on the use of wildlife for entertainment and human or wildlife interactions". 

"If South Africa is to market itself as being responsible and ethical while offering truly authentic wildlife tourism experiences, then our policies must reflect this.  And we trust that the input of the legitimate scientific, conservation, welfare and education community will direct such policies."  

In a recent post travel writer Anje Rautenbach states, "Unfortunately society has put a price on animals, their worth and how we can use that in favour of our desires; if you pay R150 you can see an elephant in the wild, if you pay R250 you can pet the elephant but bonus, if you pay R400 you can ride it. Why do we have this sick god-like complex to be in control?

"One often engage in conversations with people that shock you into the realisation that not everyone is yet aware of the cruelty that goes on in the animal entertainment industry. You often find that your beliefs from 2010, is still someone’s opinion and an animal’s reality in 2019. You realise that talking about the impact of elephant back rides and interaction, talking about interacting with wild animals (cheetah petting, walking with lions etc.) is not a once-off conversation but rather a conversation that should continue and echo into foreve.  

SATSA says, "The information acquired from the workshops and this questionnaire, along with further research (including analysis of legislation and regulations, consultation with key organisations, market and trends assessments among others) will be used to develop guidelines for animal interactions in tourism. 

A draft will then be shared for public comment.

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