Visiting a national park or wildlife area can be an incredible experience. There’s nothing quite like getting close to nature to revitalize your soul. But before planning your next trip to the great outdoors, take a moment to consider the effects of tourism on wildlife.
It is a well-known fact that the tourism industry’s primary goal is to rake in as much income. However, the industry’s gain could be Mother Nature’s loss. The natural surroundings often pay the price when tourism and wildlife collide.
Close Encounters with Mother Nature
A close encounter with a wild animal can be an amazing experience to some people. But having close contact with humans is rarely good to wild creatures.
One of the most common interactions between a wildlife creature and a human being is through food. Feeding wild animals sound and look fun. For instance, getting a deer to eat from your hand is something to rave about to friends and family. However, that close encounter could be very dangerous.
Deer and other wild animals rely on their instincts to detect approaching danger. Humans represent the ultimate predator and therefore, the ultimate danger. Creating a situation where the line between predator and prey is unclear puts the wild animal at a huge disadvantage.
Wildlife animals behave in a way that allows for survival. There is no room for them to interpret whether or not a natural predator is dangerous. By the same token, natural born predators are not always aware of the risk awaiting them when they get too close with a wildlife creature.
Human beings must respect boundaries and avoid behaving in ways that could provoke a wildlife animal to attack.
Wildlife Should Stay Wild
Some negative impact of tourism on wildlife begin and end with the misguided concept that wild animals aren’t wild. People love to get as close as possible to them, but as stated earlier, this is rarely a good thing for wildlife animals.
Once a wild animal is ‘tamed down’ and taught to accept humans as a food source, their natural instinct to search for food is affected. Why forage for nuts and berries when there are doughnuts, candy bars, and other treats being handed out?
Of course, feeding wild animals is only part of the fun for uninformed tourists. A trip would be less fun until you get a close encounter (and photo/s to prove it) with a wild animal in the background, right? But the wild creature in the background doesn’t realize how close is too close or that the candy bar in your pocket isn’t meant to be their next snack.
What happens when that incredibly cute black bear cub wraps his arms around your leg to forcefully claim that candy bar? No one can fault the creature in the situation because it merely acted on instinct.
Walls are Closing In – Loss of Habitat
Interactions with human beings not only affect the behavior of wildlife but their habitat as well. Wilderness areas are dwindling and wild animals are struggling to find a way to avoid interaction with society. One of the most prominent, negative effects of tourism on wildlife is simply the loss of a safe place for wildlife to stay wild.
It is easy to forget the true extent of today’s tourism impact on wildlife. For instance, some people don’t observe proper behavior when visiting a national park where some wild animals are caged. They try to get too close to some creatures or provoke them which can result in accident or injury.
It isn’t a crime to feed a deer. No one will show up with handcuffs and a court date. But wild animals will remain wild despite the tamed face or demeanor. They must be treated with respect.