Okay, we’re onto the Round of 16 in our brilliant World Cup for Wildlife! There’s no messing around now – one mistake and you’re out! We want to find out who, among the World Cup teams, can call themselves the World Champions of Wildlife Tourism…that means they must be a wonderful place for tourists to go and visit wildlife, without too many ‘problems’ that might put people off. Enough waffle…on with the game!

Next up: Belgium v USA

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

Belgium Wildlife – Highlights

Despite being a small crowded country, Belgium has many spectacular nature and forest reserves and actively supports wildlife protection. More than 20% of the land is still forested, and the country’s many habitats make it home to a variety of bird species and mammals. The Hoge Kempen National Park is the largest forested area in Flanders, and is a refuge for deer, falcons, hawks as well as numerous butterflies and dragonflies. The T’ Zwin Nature Reserve has been a protected landscape since 1939. Its landscape of marshes and dunes is ideal for birdwatching, particularly at 3pm every afternoon when the storks feed! The High Fens reserve is one of the country’s best nature reserves. The area is popular with visitors all year round, as animals such as wild boar and deer are numerous. Other wildlife includes the wildcat, marten, fox, and even the lynx.

Country Specific Issues

Bird Watching

Belgium has a wealth of birds for the casual or serious bird watcher. The highlights are the middle spotted Woodpecker, Crested Tit, Nutcracker, thousands of overwintering pink footed and white-fronted geese, breeding Bluethroats, or even a chance sighting of the elusive Black Woodpecker. If you are planning a bird watching trip to Belgium, be sure to hire an experienced guide to help you make the most of your time and show you the birds and other wildlife in some of Belgium’s most beautiful places. Please check out our advice on bird watching to ensure the best experience for the birds too.  Read about bird watching here.


There have been grave concerns about the conditions of zoos in Belgium in past years. As well as a poor approach to licensing, some zoos did not meet minimum welfare standards and encouraged members of the public to have direct contact with animals. Following a report by the Born Free Foundation in 2011, Belgian zoo legislation is now under review. The review should include the revision of minimum standards for the keeping of mammals in zoos, with a focus on environmental enrichment. To learn more about visiting zoos on holiday, read our zoos article here.

USA Wildlife – Highlights

The US has too much wildlife to cover here, with close to 52 million acres protected by national parks. Suffice to say, whether it’s going for a trek in a forest, watching for eagles on a mountain or enjoying whales off the coast, there’s something for everyone.

Country Specific Issues

Animals on the Menu – Shark Fin

Despite the mounting criticism, the Asian delicacy, shark fin, is still available in parts of the USA. Tourists should be careful to avoid any meal including shark fins. The most commonly available dish is likely to be ‘shark fin soup’, typically offered in Asian restaurants.  New York has recently introduced a proposed shark fin ban and California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington are enacting similar bans that were passed last year, while Florida, Illinois, Maryland and Virginia have legislation pending. Read more about shark fin soup here.

Animal Attractions – SeaWorld

SeaWorld in Orlando is notorious for its marine animal performances. Before capturing cetaceans in US waters became illegal, SeaWorld was known to capture wild animals, removing them from their families to perform for tourists. Although this practice has now been prohibited, SeaWorld continues to attract international condemnation for its training practices and animal welfare standards. Read more about aquariums here or see the news section below for details of SeaWorld documentary Blackfish.

Comment from Barry W on TripAdvisor about SeaWorld San Diego:

“Just saw the documentary, “Blackfish”…very interesting how one of sea world’s orcas has killed or hurt at least 3 trainers…it is no wonder…if you were held in a closet or prison cell for your life, you, also would go crazy…please use your summer entertainment money to go elsewhere…really sad for all the orcas, and the blatant lies and cover ups SeaWorld gives as excuses…”

Cruel Sports – Rodeo

Rodeos are a major tourist attraction in the USA, with an estimated 10,000 events held across the country each year. Marketing tactics usually imply that visitors will get to experience historical ranching practices and a little bit of the ‘old West’ heritage, however, these attractions can cause severe animal welfare problems and high risks to human participants and even spectators. To read more about rodeo click here.

Match Report

Belgium is sure to keep spectators on their toes with beautiful nature reserves, a wealth of bird species and actively protected wildlife, but the poor conditions of its zoos could lead to fatigue in the second half. With millions of acres of protected land, the USA’s team has a wealth of talent to win this match-up, but rodeo gets a red card and SeaWorld is having a nightmare…

Final Score

Belgium 2 v 3 USA