Welcome to the first match in our World Cup for Wildlife! 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!
To kick off, it’s Brazil vs Croatia…
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!
Brazil Wildlife – Highlights
Brazil is perhaps one of the planet’s best destinations for wildlife lovers. It is home to 60% of the Amazon Rainforest and has the most known species of freshwater fish and mammals (such as the giant anteater, the capybara, howler monkeys, the puma). It is also ranked third for the most number of bird species – among the best known are the toucans, parrots, and hummingbirds. The best place to spot wild animals and an incredible array of birdlife is the Pantanal – the world’s largest wetland ecosystems. There are also the Iguaçu National Park (home to the impressive Iguaçu Falls) and the Tijuca National Park. For birdwatchers, Itatiaia National Park (north of Rio de Janeiro) and Alto Paraiso in the southern Amazon are fabulous spots to see more unique species. The areas of Bahia and Santa Catarina are great destinations for whale watching as they migrate north in search of warmer waters.
Country Specific Issues
Deforestation in the Amazon Basin
Forests, the size of a small country, are destroyed every year through extensive legal (and illegal) logging. Since 1970, over 600,000 square kilometers of the Amazon Rainforest have been wiped out. Along with it, many wildlife species have lost their habitat and are becoming endangered. Extinction has become even more problematic in the Atlantic Forest, where over 90% of the forest has been cleared.
Illegal Wildlife Trade
According to Brazil’s National Network Against the Trafficking of Wild Animals (RENCTAS), 38 million animals are poached from Brazilian forests every year. Even though nine out of ten animals die in the process of being caught or during transportation, Brazil still maintains a 15 percent share of the illegal wildlife trade market. Birds are the most sought after by traffickers, with some sold live and others killed for their feathers or body parts. Reptiles (highly valued for their skins) and mammals (mostly primates) are also targets.
Major cities like the capital city Brasilia, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have large numbers of stray animals. There are nearly 150,000 stray cats and dogs in Rio de Janeiro alone. Many roam the streets in very poor conditions – sick and injured. Many dogs face unimaginable cruelty by being poisoned, beaten, denied medical treatment and intentionally run over. If you encounter stray animals, you could consider giving them some food and water, but avoid interacting with the animal too closely as rabies is still a problem in certain areas of Brazil.
Croatia Wildlife – Highlights
While most people head to Croatia for its beaches, the country is also home to some of the most spectacular wildlife and scenery in Europe. Despite being a small country, Croatia has over 400 protected areas making up about 10% of the country, including eight National Parks, ten Nature Parks and two Nature Reserves. In Risnjak National Park, mammals such as the lynx, wolf, chamois and brown bear can be found in this mountainous and heavily forested region. Plitvice Lakes National Park, the largest in the country, is also rich in animal and bird species. The Kopacki Rit wetlands and Lake Vransko Nature Park are two birdwatching hotspots. If you prefer to view widlife below water, the Adriatic Sea offers scuba divers a vast array of marine life, including schools of dolphins.
Country Specific Issues
Croatia has rich range of wildlife and it seems that awareness of wildlife welfare and conservation is growing in the country. However, it still has a limited number of centres caring for sick or injured wildlife which receive limited funding from the government. With the number of casualties brought in reaching around 500 each year, the concern is how the centres will continue to survive. The majority of the centres aim to help animals recover before return to the wild. Visitors are usually not allowed or are limited to low numbers so income is restricted to the minimal government funding and donations. Read more about visiting sanctuaries here.
Croatia is becoming a popular destination for bird watchers around the globe. One key species is the Griffon vulture on the island of Cres, where there is a long established colony, the only one known to roost by the sea. However, the fledglings face a number of dangers when making their first flight as a growing number are startled into premature flight by tourist boats going too close to the colony, hoping to get a photograph of the nesting birds. Fortunately for some, an eco-centre on the island acts as a rescue centre, caring for those who make it to the shore and can receive treatment. The centre also campaigns to increase protection for the colony and address the threats to the birds. If you are planning any bird watching activities during your visit, please read our advice on bird watching here before you go to help avoid any unnecessary distress to the birds.
Match Report: Brazil v Croatia