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It’s the last set of group games in our fantastic World Cup for Wildlife, and this time the emphasis is on defence! We’ll be comparing wildlife tourism in each of the countries taking part in the World Cup to see who will ultimately take the title Wildlife Tourism World Champions 2014! In these games, we’ll be focussing on the problems that each country faces, as they are crucial in deciding whether they are a good place for wildlife tourism – or not!

Next up: Australia v Spain

Check out the highlights and issues around wildlife tourism in each country below (all information taken from www.RIGHT-tourism.org), then read our Match Report at the bottom to find out the score!

Australia Wildlife – Highlights

Australia is known for its unique wildlife, as more than 80% of its plants, mammals, reptiles and frogs are found nowhere else on earth. The country is home to many national parks and World Heritage Areas. The Great Barrier Reef Queensland is legendary for being the world’s biggest coral reef system, and is popular for diving and snorkeling. See our tips on marine activities here. Kakadu National Park provides some spectacular birdwatching opportunities, while Kangaroo Island is the best place to see marsupials in the wild. The island of Tasmania is another great destination to see wildlife. Spotting animals in the wild is often a matter of luck so here are a few of the parks where sightings are assured: the Lone Star Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane, the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary on the Gold Coast, the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary in Kuranda, and the Melbourne Zoo. For more information, see our article on zoos here, and animal sanctuaries here.

Country Specific Issues

The fauna and flora of Australia is characterised by high numbers that are endemic to Australia. Native animals are under threat with over a hundred species currently under serious threat of extinction.

Australia has a poor record of conservation of native fauna. The extinction of Australian mega-forna is attributed to the arrival of humans and since European settlement, 23 birds, 4 frogs, and 27 mammal species are also known to have become extinct

Invasive Species

Australia’s geographical isolation has resulted in the evolution of many delicate ecological relationships that are sensitive to foreign invaders and in many instances provided no natural predators for many of the species subsequently introduced. Introduced plants that have caused widespread problems are Lantana and the Prickly Pear Bush. The introduction and spread of animals such as the Cane Toad and the European Rabbit can disrupt the existing balances between populations and develop into environmental problems. The introductions of cattle into Australia and to a lesser extent the dingo are other examples of species that have changed the landscape.  The introduced species of red fox has single handedly caused the extinction of several species.

Marine Conservation

Recent climate change reports have highlighted the threat of higher water temperatures to the Great Barrier Reef; just one of the notable issues with marine conservation in Australia is the protection of the Great Barrier Reef, a world heritage site and the largest coral reef on the planet. The Great Barrier Reef’s environmental pressures include water quality from runoff, climate change and mass coral bleaching, tourism visitor numbers, overfishing, and shipping accident. To read more on coral reefs click here or on coral damage click here.

Spain Wildlife – Highlights

Spain has 13 National Parks, offering tourists a remarkable array of terrains to explore. For those interested in wildlife watching, there is no better park than Cordillera Cantabri which provides an important habitat for some of Spain’s most endangered animals, including the brown bear. At the start of the 20th Century, brown bears would have been reasonably common, with around 1,000 bears living in the wild, however, as a result of hunting and habitat destruction, their population has plummeted to just 100. To read more about visiting National Parks, click here.

Country Specific Issues

Running of the Bull and Other Bull Fiestas

The Running of the Bull festival, known locally as San Fermin Festival, takes place each July. It has been going since 1911 and is a popular tourist event, despite the cruelty involved to the bulls. All of the bulls that run through the streets of Pamplona end up in the Bull Ring, where they are killed in front of thousands of spectators. Across Spain, hundreds of festivals take place each year involving bulls, often with the animals being chased, tortured or having flaming torches attached to their horns. You can read more about cruel sports here and about ‘cultural’ events involving cruelty here. You can read more about bull fiestas here.

Bull Fighting

Bull fighting is promoted as a large part of Spanish culture and many tourists attend bull fights. What may seem like a classic man versus beast battle, is far from fair. Thousands of bulls each year are killed in front of spectators, many have been drugged, are exhausted and confused, then they are repeatedly stabbed until they die. Whilst bullfighting is still legal in most parts of Spain, it is banned by law in Catalonia and in the Canary Islands. Despite the claims of cultural importance, a recent survey showed that 67% of Spanish are not interested in visiting a bull fight. You can read much more about bull fighting here.

Diving and Snorkelling

Spain is one of Europe’s best spots for diving, with more than 4000km of varied shoreline meeting the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Diving experiences offer tourists the chance to encounter Spain’s marine life in the wild, a far better experience than going along to one of the countries many aquariums, however, during the peak season, some areas may become very busy and the marine life could be at risk through over-crowding and heavy boat traffic. Please take the time to read our simple tips on how to avoid causing harm while diving, here

Photo Prop Animals

As in many places in the world, in some Spanish resorts such as Benidorm tourists may be offered the chance to pay to have their photo taken with a wild animal, such as a capuchin monkey. While this may give you a good photograph, the animals will be suffering: in many cases, they are taken from their family at a young age (often the parents must be killed), have their teeth removed or cut and their claw removed, as well as living in less than ideal circumstances. Please don’t encourage this trade by paying for a photo. Read more here.

Match Report

This is an interesting match-up as both countries are known for their beauty and wonderful fauna. Australia ‘s poor conservation record will hurt its odds of walking away with the win. However, Spain gets a red card for its bull fighting and other bull fiestas, and surely they can’t come back from that?

Final Score

Australia 2 v 1 Spain

Don’t miss the next game…