Animal protection groups, NGOs and tourism organisations call on the United Nations World Tourism Organization and the Global Tourism Crisis Committee to use the process of recovery from COVID-19 to phase out all captive wildlife in tourism entertainment. In an open letter penned to the Secretary-General of the UNWTO, Nick Stewart of World Animal Protection calls on the tourism sector to embrace a part of the responsibility to prevent future pandemics and, in doing so, exclude all exploitation of wild animals. It was signed and endorsed by several animal protection groups including Blood Lions, as well as significant travel and tourism organisations such as Airbnb and Booking.com.
The open letter goes on to point out that visits to wildlife tourist attractions may account for between 20-40% of internal tourism globally, and that most involve close contact, hands-on interaction with animals that could pose dangers to human health, especially through the spread of zoonotic disease. The addendums to the letter highlight the fact that most of these animals are exposed to poor welfare conditions and bad treatment, without the practices making any substantive contribution to conservation. Captive wildlife tourism is a known driver of both legal and illegal wildlife trade and often involves the removal of a wild animal from its natural habitat, contributing to significant biodiversity loss.
Stewart writes that a move to phase out captive wildlife attractions and promote responsible wildlife tourism is essential to signalling the pro-active and precautionary approach espoused by the Global Tourism Crisis Committee and that it is the only way to ensure a more resilient, sustainable and equitable tourism sector for the future. He calls on the UNWTO to send a strong message that would “strengthen the image of the sector as a force for good whose benefits will be shared by all sectors of society”. He argues that recovery post-COVID-19 is an opportunity to “grow back better”.
The full open letter and list of signatories can be accessed here.
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