Earth’s biodiversity is under threat – animal life is disappearing at 1,000 times the natural rate of extinction. Sadly, 99 percent of threatened species are at risk due to human activity. According to a United Nations report released in 2019, 1 million species are facing extinction, with many staring down a timeframe of mere decades.
Responsible eco-tourism, which allows curious travelers to see rare wildlife in person, is a crucial component of the conservation movement. Like zoos and aquariums, which play a powerful role in researching, rescuing and rehabilitating animals threatened by an increasingly inhospitable environment, wildlife preserves, parks and other forms of eco-tourism are crucial to keeping animals alive in their natural habitats. These institutions bring money to many rural and disadvantaged communities, creating jobs and fueling the economy, while giving locals a vested interest in conservation.
Like zoos and aquariums, not all forms of wildlife tourism are created equally. There will always be bad actors – those that exploit animals or fail to do their part in protecting vulnerable creatures. Some tour guides may encourage travelers to engage in behaviors that compromise the health and wellbeing of animals. To parse the best operations from the worst, and to improve those that want to do better, there is a strong need for independent, third-party certification for global eco and animal-tourism.
Through responsible eco-tourism, we can help protect some of the last vestiges of the wild world and ensure the humane treatment of the magnificent creatures who live there.