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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: Croatia v Mexico

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!

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

Sanctuaries

Croatia has a 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, and these 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.

Bird watching

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.

Mexico Wildlife – Highlights

Mexico is one of three mega-diverse countries of the world with coastlines on both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. With over 700 species, Mexico is the leader in reptile diversity. It also ranks highly in the mammal and amphibian categories, and is considered the fourth largest country on the planet in terms of overall species. National parks offer some of the best places to observe animals in the wild, namely Sierra de San Pedro Martir National Park (habitat for cougar, mule deer, coyote, bighorn sheep and big soaring birds), and Lagunas de Chacahua National Park (home to crocodiles, sea turtles, iguanas and dozens of bird species). Mexico’s marine parks (namely Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park and Cabo Pulmo National Park) also offer a chance to explore its coral reefs by snorkeling and scuba diving. See our tips on visiting marine parks here.

Country Specific Issues

Stray Animals

Mexico has a lot of stray animals, which are often in very poor conditions. The population of stray cats and dogs is controlled by informal and unregulated culling, in San Luis Río Colorado, Sonora, for example, the mayor pays citizens $20 to kill strays. Methods of culling are often very cruel, typical examples include; poisoning, stabbing, beating the animal to death and electrocution. 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 a problem throughout Mexico.

Cock Fighting

Sadly, cock fights, or ‘Palenques’ as they are called locally, are legal in some parts of Mexico, such as the state of Nayarit, and take place illegally throughout the rest of the country. Tourists may well be encouraged to attend the cock fight by local guides, most likely working on commission.  Typical cock fighting events feature around 30 ‘fights’. For more information on cockfighting, please click here.

Bull Fighting and Bull Fiestas

Mexico has, arguably, the most prolific bullfighting industry in the world, with at least 500 bullrings, including the world’s largest, ‘La Monumental’, in Mexico City, with a capacity of 42,000. Bullfighting spectators will sometimes be offered the chance to purchase and consume the testicles of steers killed in the bullfight. To read more about bullfighting, click here.

A notable fiesta is held on 1st February every year in Tlacotalpan, a city in the Mexican state of Veracruz.  Liquor is poured down the bulls’ throats, and the animals are tied to boats and dragged across a river before being set loose in the streets. Participants then chase, beat, and stab the terrified animals with bats and knives. This continues for hours as drunken residents throw bricks and trash at the animals, kick and punch them, and cut off their ears. Surviving bulls are then turned out to pasture. For photos of this event, click here. To read more of bull fiestas see here.

Lion Cubs – ‘Photo-prop’ Animals

Tourists at popular resorts such as Cancun will often come across lion cubs being used as ‘photo-props’, whereby they are charged a fee to have their photograph taken with the animals. These animals will generally be kept in small cages and potentially will not be treated well. Any claims that the money is used for conservation are unlikely to be true. This trade exists only because tourists pay, so please consider this before having your photograph taken with a lion, however cute. To read more about photo-prop animals, see here. Please sign our petition on this issue here.

Hunting

Species such as white-tailed deer, wild turkey, bighorn sheep, wild boar, white dove, Canadian duck, pichichin duck, red deer, guinea fowl and ostrich, among others species are hunted for sport by so called Wildlife Management units that you can pay to be a part of. Mexico is home to over 2,000 hunting ranches, principally found in the north of the country.

Deforestation

As of 2002, Mexico had the second fastest rate of deforestation in the world, second only to Brazil. In Mexico today, 170,000 square kilometres (65,637 sq mi) are considered “Protected Natural Areas.” These include 34 biosphere reserves (unaltered ecosystems), 67 national parks, 26 areas of protected flora and fauna, 4 areas for natural resource protection (conservation of soil, hydrological basins and forests) and 17 sanctuaries (zones rich in diverse species).

Match Report

Croatia is coming into this game with spectacular wildlife and birdwatching hotspots, however limited government funding is hurting its conservation efforts. On the other hand, Mexico’s many issues, namely the culling of stray animals, its legal bull fighting, its fast rate of deforestation as well as its hunting ranches, will surely overshadow its wildlife diversity.

Final Score

Croatia 4 v 1 Mexico