Safaris are a multi-million pound industry but at what cost to wildlife? Many governments have guidelines in place to help minimise the impact of visitors on wildlife and by adhering to these, you can help to ensure that both humans and wildlife can benefit.
What is it?
The modern safari involves viewing, photographing, and experiencing animals in their natural habitats. Many people associate the idea of going on safari with Africa, but actually there are many safari destinations throughout the world. It is possible to go on safari trips in India, Australia, Antarctica, Alaska, Brazil or Peru.
What you should know
- A safari offers you a unique opportunity to see and understand wildlife roaming free, often in protected parks, living the way nature intended.
- Many companies guarantee a percentage of their profits are used to help support the conservation of endangered species, protection of wildlife from poachers and habitat destruction. It is recommended that you always check with your tour company what they do to preserve wildlife for future generations and their policies on minimising any negative effects on wildlife as a result of safaris. Please be responsible in how you choose your tour operator, using your money as a positive influence on animal welfare and conservation rather than against it.
- The majority of safaris are conducted from within the safety of a vehicle but there are an increasing number of walking safaris becoming available. It can be dangerous to the animals to closely interact with humans so watching animals from the security of a vehicle offers greater protection for animals and humans alike.
- Walking safaris are often seen as a more genuine experience to get as close as possible to wildlife in its natural habitat. However, dangers such as unpredictable animals, challenging terrain and the possibility of being isolated from facilities, as well as the impact on wildlife and their habitats can raise questions about the suitability of these. In Africa alone, there are elephants, hippo, rhinos, lions and buffalo who could all take offence at the proximity of people disturbing their peace, but problems are rare and an experienced guide should be able to read any warning signs.
- Many walking safaris are accompanied by armed guards who can fire a warning shot to scare off an animal who may attack. Groups are usually restricted to low numbers and some of the more popular national parks do not allow walking safaris. It is better to choose a safari which offers trained, knowledgeable guides who know how to keep the group and the animals safe. Guides experienced in the field will know when elephants could be more volatile such as when their young are nearby and therefore move their group out of harm’s way and cause minimal distress to the animals.
- The presence of humans in national parks has brought with it increased problems for wildlife and its habitat so it is important that you are aware of the potential dangers your presence can cause animals. You can help prevent threats to wildlife by ensuring your guide adheres to all restrictions relating to wildlife safaris. If you are unhappy with how the safari is conducted, then voice your concerns immediately.
What you can do
- Most national parks, reserves and conservancies have set guidelines for safaris conducted within their boundaries. If you care about minimising the impact of your experience on the wildlife you want to see then ensure you, your tour operator and fellow travellers follow these guidelines.
- Your safari vehicle should always keep to the main tracks to avoid damaging vegetation or harming small animals concealed therein.
- Maintain a distance of at least 20 metres from animals. Do not hang out of windows, stand on vehicle roofs, follow animals when they move away or disturb them with loud noise.
- Most guidelines advise a maximum number of vehicles allowed near a group of animals at any one time, please ensure your guide keeps to this and waits until another tour has moved on before approaching the group. You should not stay for more than 10 minutes.
- Speeds are restricted and your guide should keep to the stated speed limits. Animals will always have right of way and make sure that you slow down when passing grazing animals.
- Some animals are day hunters and can be sensitive to disturbance by safari vehicles. Be aware that your presence could disrupt their feeding patterns.
- Do not remove any bones, skins, horns, teeth, hair, feathers, eggs, rocks, plants, seeds, cadavers, nests of shells. Do not touch any animals, alive or dead.
- Do not collect firewood. Do not light fires or discard cigarettes.
- Do not litter and take all rubbish with you to be disposed of properly.
- Pets should not be taken on safari.
- Stay in your vehicle at all times unless on an authorised walking safari.
- Never feed any animal.
Where does this occur?
Safaris are very popular across the world, they are most common throughout Africa, Asia, Australasia, Arctic, Antarctic and South America.