Yesterday saw high-level representatives from UN member states and international organisations from around the world gather at the United Nations Headquarters to celebrate and appreciate the fragility and value of wildlife, in celebration of United Nations’ World Wildlife Day.
The commemorative event for the protection and appreciation of world wildlife celebrated sea life for the very first time this year under the theme ‘Life below water: for people and planet’, which aligned closely with UN Development Programme’s Sustainable Development Goal 14 – Life below water.
Factoring into the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is the need for the sustainable practice of tour operation, which involves travel that benefits its nation’s communities, respects and protects its wildlife, while remaining sustainable for future generations.
In 2018, The Travel Corporation (TTC) and its family of global brands around the world committed to eliminating all avoidable single-use plastics across all operations by 2022, helping to rid oceans of harmful plastic debris.
TTC’s family of brands, including Adventure World Travel, adhere to The TreadRight Animal Welfare Policy – a compact of rights for animals under human control that helps ensure that all experiences meet globally recognised animal welfare criteria, developed in partnership with World Animal Protection.
Following on from its commitment to reducing pollution, the corporation also came up with a list of 10 steps for agents to ensure that travellers’ journeys abroad remain animal-friendly:
- The best animal encounter is a wild one. View animals in their natural habitat, exhibiting natural behaviours, and do not initiate contact with them.
- Do not ride on the back of an elephant. To ‘train’ an elephant to accept riders, they are taken from their mothers at an early age and physically and mentally abused.
- Avoid aquariums or marine parks where large mammals like dolphins or whales are kept in captivity. Cetaceans are intelligent and far-ranging. These environments are unnatural and cause these animals stress.
- Do not support the illegal trafficking of animal products, by purchasing souvenirs made from wild animals such as fur, ivory, shells, seahorses, teeth, rhino horns and turtle shells.
- Never participate in cub petting or lion walking experiences. Many of the companies that offer these experiences breed their lions for the ‘Canned Lion Hunting’ industry.
- Do not attend festivals that subject animals to cruelty for entertainment, such as animal circuses, dancing bears, dog or cockerel fights, running of the bulls and any festival that causes suffering to animals.
- Don’t take a wildlife selfie if the animal is being held, hugged, or restrained, if you are baiting the animal with food or if the animal could harm you.
- Before riding on the back of a horse, mule or donkey, match your size to that of the animal and ensure your weight is evenly balanced when riding.
- Only visit and support animal sanctuaries and shelters involving wild animals in captivity if the objectives of the organisation are in the animals best interests (e.g. re-homing, rehabilitation or release in the wild); and
- Speak up!
“If you see an animal in distress make a note of the date, time and location as well as the type and number of animals involved. Take a photo and/or videos as proof,” said Neil Rodgers, managing director of Adventure World Travel.
Despite its critical importance, the ocean faces many threats, and among these is an area of primary concern for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES): the unsustainable exploitation of marine life for international trade.
It is believed that over 30 per cent of commercially exploited marine fish stocks are over-fished, which is below the level at which they can produce sustainable yields. While over three billion people around the world depend on the ocean for their livelihood, some of the roughest estimates on the status of sea life place 40 per cent of marine environments in peril.
World Wildlife Day was an opportunity to raise awareness of the value of marine life diversity, the crucial importance of marine species to human development, and how travel operators could work to ensure the ocean continues offering life-changing experiences for future generations.
Ivonne Higuero, secretary-general of CITES, said: “We are all striving to achieve the same objective of sustainability: for people and planet – where wildlife, be it terrestrial or marine, can thrive in the wild while also benefiting people.
“We, here at CITES, will continue to work tirelessly to ensure international trade in CITES-listed marine species is legal, sustainable and traceable for people, planet and prosperity.”