Tour Operators Urged On Responsible Tourism

The campaign targets four categories of animals namely pets like dogs and cats, domestic animals like poultry, goats, cows and sheep, animals in captivity like lions, leopards, chimpanzees and animals in the wild.
27 Nov 2017 15:12
Engagement meeting between World Animal Protection Africa and Uganda's tour operators in Kampala on responsible wildlife selfie.
Ugandan tour operators have been advised to pursue responsible tourism in order to safeguard wildlife welfare and ensure sustainability of the tourism industry.

This was at an engagement meeting between World Animal Protection Africa and members of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) as part of the ongoing global responsible selfie-campaign aimed at protection and improving the welfare of animals.

The campaign targets four categories of animals namely pets like dogs and cats, domestic animals like poultry, goats, cows and sheep, animals in captivity like lions, leopards, chimpanzees and animals in the wild.

According to Edith Kabesiime, a Campaign Manager in charge of wildlife at World Animal Protection Africa, the responsible selfie campaign arose from the evidence that in the last few years there has been nearly 300 percent increase in wildlife selfies, including in Uganda.

Kabesiime said of the hundreds of thousands of wildlife selfies taken, over 40 percent were considered "bad selfies" as they were taken dangerously close to the animals, posing serious dangers to both the people and the animals.

Kabesiime said the campaign is targeting, in particular, Instagram where most wildlife selfies are posted, not forgetting other social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Describing the bad selfies as a form of inhumane treatment of animals, Kabesiime said that of 249 tourism attractions studied, 54 percent offer services involving direct contact with wildlife, like hugging, feeding or climbing on elephants.

Kabesiime said 51 percent of animals abused in the selfies are considered endangered under the global endangered species platform CITES, while 21 percent are threatened according to the International Union of Conservation of Nature. She called on the tour operators to be part of the global movement for the protection and welfare of animals.

She said tour operators, as well as others, should pick interest because their businesses depend on animals, warning that doing the contrary would tantamount to "shooting ourselves in the foot".

Kabesiime said animals are not as stupid as humans think, jokingly urging those who hunt animals for trophies to go and face such animals in the real wild instead of shooting those that have been disoriented by the operators.

Tour operators are a key target because they are at the front-line of people's access to, especially caged and wild animals.

Raphael Omondi, the Education Outreach Officer of World Animal Protection Africa based in Nairobi, Kenya, said the global selfie campaign focuses on five freedoms of animals. These are free from hunger and thirst, freedom from discomfort and disease, freedom from fear and distress, freedom from the association of own kind, among others.

Omondi said although animals are so valuable to humans and economic growth, there are so many abuses being meted out to them like caging, sport-hunting, giving them human food like sodas and biscuits, taking pictures very close to them, among others, which affect their natural systems and welfare.

Omondi said in addition to dangers like being attacked by the animals, there is also the possibility of humans contracting zoonotic diseases like anthrax, Ebola and anthrax, or human diseases and other impurities transferring to the animals.

According to Omondi, tour operators, just like anyone, need to have the knowledge, skills, practice and attitudes of ensuring the protection and welfare of animals in order to create a win-win situation for all.

As a commitment to the cause, the campaign has developed a Wildlife Selfie Code to which the tour operators signed, adding to so far tens of thousands of other supporters. The Code urges one not to take a wildlife selfie if an animal is being held, hugged or restrained, is being baited with food or could harm.

On the other hand, the code allows taking a wildlife selfie if one keeps a safe distance, the animal is in a natural home and is free to move and is not a captive. According to both Kabesiime and Omondi, the safe distance for taking an allowable wildlife selfie is about 100 meters.

Gloria Tumwesigye, the Executive Director of Association of Uganda Tour Operators, welcomed the campaign as key in promoting tourism in the country. She appealed to the operators to ensure the Code becomes part and parcel of their operations.

Benon Katumba Ssebunya from Hawk Safaris said the campaign is geared towards the best interests of tourism and its players.

Lillian Kamusiime, the Vice Chairperson of Uganda Safari Guides Association, said the knowledge and information are key for tour guides.

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