Experiences where South African and visitors are able to interact with wildlife could be radically altered as the South African Tourism Services Association (SATSA) has announced these practices are frowned upon.
Interactions between the public infant wildlife, walking with predators or elephants and the riding of wildlife will all be prohibited under the association’s new wildlife interaction guideline.
The new guidelines released by SATSA, as well as a year-long research process, are aimed at helping operators in the relevant industry make more ethical choices and better protect their wildlife.
South Africa is well-known for its wildlife with a number of tourist-focused offerings utilising animals as part of their experience, but in recent years many visitors have flagged these experiences as unacceptable.
Many visitors felt that these interactions resulted in poor welfare and forcing the animals to partake in activities that go against their natural behaviour.
Since then SATSA has released strict guidelines that the industry are encouraged to follow under the following headlines.
This is now considered prohibited as animals forced to perform are also subjected to training which can expose them to physical and mental abuse. Research also shows that there is no educational or conservational value in these performances.
Interactions with infant wild animals
These tactile interactions are shown to have highly negative effects on young animals as they are naturally scared of humans and need to be separated from their mother in order to be exposed to human contact.
In order for a predator to safely interact with humans it must undergo extensive training which usually involves harmful and negative techniques. Keeping these animals in captivity also has negative effects on them causing them to behave differently then they would in the wild. The same applies to animals that are trained to walk alongside humans.
Riding of animals
Having a human ride a wild animal is completely contrary to their natural behaviour. As with the above mentioned interactions, these animals have to be trained to accept humans riding on their back and are forced to participate in the activity against their will.
Other points mentioned in the guidelines include warnings about illegal trade of animals parts, hunting, breeding and any advertising that could be considered misleading.
As of July 2020 SATSA hopes to fully implement and enforce these new guidelines