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: Japan v Colombia

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!

Japan Wildlife – Highlights

Japan covers a wide range of climatic zones (its northern tip is just south of Russia’s icy east while its islands to the south reach almost to the tropics). This has resulted in a highly diverse wildlife despite Japan’s isolation from mainland Asia. There are around 130 and mammals, and over 600 bird species. Its most popular mammal is the Japanese macaque (snow monkey), the world’s most northerly monkey, and the easiest way to spot them is at the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park. To the south, on Yakushima Island, there is an abundance of plants and wildlife, including monkeys, deer and birds. It is also a major nesting spot for endangered Loggerhead and green turtles, but tourism has become a problem in recent years. Tame deer are one of the easiest of Japan’s native animals to see in the wild. In the city of Nara, near Osaka, sika deer have turned into a tourist attraction as about 1200 of them roam the city park.

Country Specific Issues

Bear Parks

‘Bear parks’, as they are know, are establishments where several bears are housed together in concrete ‘parks’, where they are forced to beg for food, to entertain the crowds. Japanese bear parks claim that they were set up to help orphaned cubs, however, even if this was once true, it is certainly no longer the case. Bears are bread to live in these overcrowded and unnatural habitats for purely commercial reasons. Recent staff fatalities at such attractions have also demonstrated the risks caused by the creation of such facilities. Read more about animal shows, here.

Dog Fighting

Japan is the only country where dog fighting remains legal. This barbarically cruel practice involves pitching dogs against each other in a fight, often to the death. Tourists may see dog fighting referred to as ‘tōken’. Read more about dog fighting, here.

Whale Meat

Whale meat can be found in some restaurants in Japan. Tourists should look to avoid dishes called ‘unesu’ , which means they contain whale belly meat and ‘onomi’ dishes, which contain whale tail. Hunting whales is notoriously cruel and damaging to conservation, however, tourists should also be aware that eating whale meat could cause illness as it often contains high levels of toxic substances such as mercury. Read our advice on what foods to avoid, here.

Sea Turtle Nesting

The southern island of Yakushima is one of the main egg-laying areas for sea turtles in Japan, and is the only area in the North Pacific where Loggerhead turtles lay their eggs. Unfortunately, tourism has become a problem with the number of visitors increasing yearly since the island was registered as a World Natural Heritage Site. The increased number of turtle viewers has negatively affected sea turtles landing and laying eggs, and hatched turtlets. Car headlights, noise, and human shadows have caused landed sea turtles to head back to the sea. Catching sea turtles and collecting their eggs are activities governed by laws, but there are currently no restrictions on watching sea turtles. See our tips for unobtrusive wildlife watching here.

Colombia Wildlife – Highlights

Colombia is unique as it borders both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, contains large parts of the Amazonian rainforest, and has the highest coastal mountain range in the world. This exceptional geographic location is home to about 10% of the planet’s biodiversity, making Colombia one of the world’s “megadiverse” countries. It ranks first in bird species and second in butterflies, freshwater fishes and amphibians. The country has a total of 56 protected parks. The Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Natural Park is the only underwater park in the country with coral reefs, sea turtles, dolphins, and a wide variety of tropical fish. Please see our tips on diving and snorkeling here. The Tayrona National Natural Park is a natural splendor with over 100 mammal species (deer, tiger cat, Mantled howler monkey) and 300 bird species.

Country Specific Issues


After many years of limited tourism owing to security fears, Colombia is starting to develop their tourist industry. The country has the highest species count of any country in the world (almost 1900) so as safety improves an influx of tourists could be a concern. Backpackers heading for Taganga can participate in good birdwatching in Minca close by. If you are considering bird watching please chose a reputable guide or tour operator, please read our article here and visit the American Bird Conservancy, a not for profit that allows birders to find lodges that contribute to bird conservation across the Americas.

Horse Riding

Horse hire for tourists and horse trekking is common in certain parts of Colombia particularly around forest areas and national parks. Horses and mules are also used to carry trekker’s luggage on typical back-packer routes such as the 5-day Ciudad Perdida Trek (Lost City). You should always check the condition of horses and mules being used on this difficult terrain and ensure that they are not overloaded. You can read more about horse-trekking here.

Match Report

Despite its highly diverse wildlife, Japan score a couple of own goals in this game – legal dog fighting, whale hunting and its cruel bear parks. Colombia, on the other hand, is trying to put its safety issues behind it, and is focusing on growing its tourism industry. With this growth however, mistreated, ill or exhausted working equines (horses, mules, donkeys) might become a bigger problem.

Final Score

Japan 1 v 3 Colombia

Don’t miss the next game…