Conservation leaders urge UNWTO to curb wildlife exploitation

Photo of someone stroking lion cubs.

Conservation groups from South Africa and around the globe have called on the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and their Global Tourism Crisis Committee to phase out close-contact wildlife encounters and entertainment practices in tourism to help build a more resilient and sustainable industry going forward.

This as the world continues to navigate the aftermath of the emergence of a novel zoonotic disease. It is believed that COVID-19 originated at a wildlife market in Wuhan, China, where it was transmitted from bats to endangered pangolins and then to humans. It’s not the first time such a human-wildlife transmission has occurred and, as experts predict, it won’t be the last.

As a country dependent on tourism for economic stability and employment, South Africa’s tourism industry simply won’t survive another catastrophic zoonotic disease spill-over.

To this end, a group of nearly 240 international organisations, including 13 from South Africa, have called on the UNWTO’s Global Tourism Crisis Committee partners to rethink wildlife entertainment in tourism going forward.

Travel and tourism heavyweights such as Airbnb, booking.com, the Dutch association of travel agents and tour operators ANVR, Intrepid Travel, as well as the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA), have all backed the open letter sent by the World Animal Protection (WAP) on the 28th May.

The letter asks for a pro-active, precautionary and responsible approach in ‘preparing for tomorrow’ by phasing out the use of captive wildlife for tourist entertainment. The proposal hopes to safeguard both tourists and tourism employees while shaping an authentic and ethical industry.

This is an excerpt from an article by Louzel Lombard Steyn, originally published on SA People News

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