Exciting times in our fantastic 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!

Next up: Japan v Greece

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 land 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.

Greece Wildlife – Highlights

For a relatively small country, Greece is blessed with an incredible natural heritage and a diverse landscape of forests, mountains, lakes and coastal lagoons. In fact, it is one of the most mountainous countries of Europe. Bird, reptile and insect fans can find everything they need in the following three popular wildlife destinations: Dadia Forest is the place to see birds of prey with over 30 species of raptor recorded; the mountains of the north Peloponnese region offer the chance to see a huge number of butterfly species in the summer; and Lesvos is known as one of the best birdwatching places in Europe, particularly in the spring.

Country Specific Issues

Loggerhead Turtles

Loggerhead turtles are the most common turtle in the Mediterranean, nesting on beaches from Greece and Turkey to Israel and Libya. However, many of their nesting beaches are under threat from tourist development. Loggerheads are highly migratory and particularly vulnerable to accidental capture in the nets and long-lines of the world’s fisheries.  The Greek government is working to establish a network of protected areas in order to protect nesting beaches. Learn more about protected areas here and fishing here


Greece was the first European country to ban all animals in circuses. Several European countries have either banned or are phasing out the use of wild animals in circuses, but the Greek ban applies to all animals. Various abuses in Greek circuses were documented in the past, including a rhinoceros forced to perform; a hippopotamus living in a filthy wagon with little more than a bathtub of dirty water; tigers living in small cages on the backs of trucks. To find out more about circuses and animal shows, click here

Stray Animals

Stray animals, while not a ‘tourism’ activity, are something that tourists may come across. For more information, here’s some info from Greek Animal Rescue. Here’s an example complaint about Rhodes, from Pennyppott, Trip Advisor:

“Although the resort of Rhodes is beautiful and the people are friendly and helpful there are many issues with animal welfare that will be distressing to many travellers especially first time travellers. This was one of the most distressing things for me as a first time visitor and no websites or tourist books I read alerted me to that. there are many many emaciated dogs and cats that are shown scant regard. Dead dogs lying by side of the road obviously victims of road traffic accidents and many many animals tied up without water or food.”

Match Report

Both teams are coming into this game desperate for a win. Japan should come out strong thanks to its large variety of animals, and putting their various animal-related misdemeanours aside, they suddenly look a good team. If Greece too puts its stray animals woes aside, they start to look a great bet. They have banned animals in circuses and are working on protecting nesting turtles. Its mountains offer birdwatchers a spectacular sight, and that might just be the wildlife attraction that tips the scales!

Final Score

Japan 1 v 2 Greece

Don’t miss the next game…