Inappropriate conduct by forest guides and visitors may have a negative effect on wildlife. This in turn may place animals at an increased risk of stress, illness and could even result in their death.
Each park will have its own set of guidelines and standards covering issues such as: times permitted to observe animals, maximum group sizes and how far you must remain from animals. By following these simple guidelines forest guides and visitors can observe wildlife in a way which is both safe for themselves as well as the animals.
What are they?
Forested national park are protected areas, which have restrictions set, typically by domestic governments, on how the areas may be used for tourism, harvesting and hunting.
What you can do
As an individual in a group it is important to act responsibly, not only for yourself but for the group as a whole.
- Observe maximum group sizes as recommended by the local authorities.
- Visitor group size can affect the behavior of the animals and the visitors’ experience. Where groups of visitors are too high in number, the animals become stressed and nervous and move away from visitor groups.
- Maintain the minimum distance between the visitor group and the animals.
- There is potential for disease transfer, both from humans to wildlife and vice versa. This will also protect visitors from the possible threat of attack from wild animals. If an animal does move towards the visitor group, you must move back maintaining the minimum distance at all times.
- Observe the maximum time advised by local authorities in the presence of animals.
- When this period is over, the group is to leave the area where the animal is. Timing is at the guides’ discretion and the viewing periods should not be extended. Remember that you are guests in the National Park, which is the animals’ home and what is best for wildlife is to freely roam and behave naturally in the forest.
Interaction with animals:
- Do not touch the animals under any circumstances. Diseases, infections and even parasites can easily pass between animals and humans.
- Avoid direct eye contact with the animals. Some species use direct eye contact as a threat technique.
- Do not place yourself between two animals, especially between a mother and her infant.
- Many species are extremely protective towards their offspring and can become aggressive if they feel that their infant is being threatened.
- Do not call out to the animals. Calling to animals can cause stress and disrupt their natural behaviour. Do not call or lure animals to the group or trail. It deters them from behaving naturally. Do not make any sudden movements and do not try to gain the attention of the animal by waving your arms for instance.
- Keep the noise down. Loud noise can be interpreted as a threat by wild animals and they can respond either by fleeing or threatening back.
- Do not go into the forest if you feel unwell. If you recently have had a sickness and/or diarrhoea, do not enter the forest. It can seriously risk infecting the animals, which could easily result in their death and potential transmission of the disease to other animals.
- Do not eat in the forest as it increases the risk of disease transmission and attacks from animals.
- Bring all rubbish out of the forest when you leave (this includes all fruits scraps). Bring as little as possible into the forest – only the essentials should be taken in. This will limit chances of loss or damage.
- If you need to urinate or defecate be sure that you are far from animals. Dig a hole (at least 30cm deep) and cover it after use. Try and wait until you are out of the forest.
Many forest areas and their surrounding areas represent a complicated and diverse, but above all, fragile habitat. Forest ecosystems are a delicately balanced network of animal and plant species, many of which are heavily dependent upon each another. Therefore follow these simple guidelines:
- Do not remove, damage, or alter any of the vegetation within the forest. Leaves, seeds and shells all play a role within the forest ecosystem and should not be taken out.
- It is your responsibility to help ensure the survival of species and their habitat. Visitors should discourage other members in their group, including their guides if necessary, from acting in a way which contradicts these guidelines, and should express their disapproval and report any activity which puts either the visitors or wildlife at risk.