Of selfies, wildlife and ethics

“Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience!”
– ralph waldo emerson

Most of us grew up with David Attenborough’s voice and wildlife documentaries, igniting wanderlust and the wish to experience some kind of an adventurous encounter with some of the most charismatic species walking our earth.
Unfortunately not all of us are patient enough to travel to the wild places of Africa, Asia, America or even Europe and meet dolphins, elephants, lions, tigers, bears, wolves, monkeys or the great apes in their natural environment.

It took me twenty three years to see my first whales, almost thirty five years to swim with wild dolphins and almost forty years to encounter wild elephants, lions, rhinos, leopards, hippos- to name a few- in the South African bush and gorillas in Rwandas mountains.
At the end of the day patience pays off trifold without the bitter aftertaste of an encounter in captivity.
I know, because I have made the mistake.
Here is my story:
Back then- I was twenty at that time and the internet just started up- I did not have the experience or the knowledge of how some of my favorite animals are trained for my amusement.
Yes, I flew to the States for the first time and bought a ticket for Sea World. Did I like it? No. Not really. Too noisy. Too crowded. Too much.
When I moved to America for flight training and ended up living in California and Florida, I started realizing how different a dolphin’s life looked in the wild- I cherished all those encounters in the wild and began to really look into the dark world of animal captivity. 
I could barely handle the sad faces of the fat bottlenose dolphins, hovering in one of the tanks, or the hyperactivity or simple floating of the orcas behind the scenes. 
The realization of the cruelty behind “dolphin shows”, “dolphin encounters”, photos with “smiling” dolphins started my journey into conservation.
I ended up traveling to some of the wild places on my bucket list to view wild animals in their habitat on their terms.

Today no one can say they DID NOT KNOW.
There are documentaries, covering the cruelty of dolphin and whale captivity, there are clips highlighting the training of elephants for rides, there are articles on ethical traveling into wild areas, and many of us know about lions being pet to be killed.
Cuddle me, kill me
A must watch: Bloodlions
Blackfish
A short documentary, uncovering the cruelty of the elephant tourism industry

With the ability to travel, the internet and the opportunity to get to remote or exotic places, the sad trend of wildlife selfies (photos) started.
For a few more likes on social media. Without any interest in the cruelty behind the scenes of many such easy opportunities.

How can you avoid supporting this:
Do not cuddle or pose with any baby animal or animal on the streets, in wildlife parks that merely are built on animal interaction.
Stay away from so called sanctuaries where you can walk with lions, cheetah and pet cubs.
Stay away from institutions like the tiger temple, all dolphinaria and similar captive animal attractions.
– Travel with ethical organizations as well as responsible operators and safari outfitters.
Enjoy wild animals ONLY in the wild or selected sanctuaries and rescue centers, that need your visit to support them.

What is a good and what is a bad wildlife selfie (by world animal protection)?
A ‘bad’ wildlife selfie is an image or post in which a wild animal is being held, touched, restrained or baited for the purpose of being a photo prop.
A ‘good’ wildlife selfie is an image or post of a wild animal in which there was no direct human contact and the animal was not being restrained or in captivity to be used as a photo prop. Or photos taken taken while authentic wildlife sanctuaries and orphanages.

There are some beautiful sanctuaries, you can visit and thus contributing to the upkeep.
There are ethical whale and dolphin watching tours all over the world- with some allowing encounters in the water.
There are interesting “volunteer/ vacation of a different kind” opportunities where your money will keep the program going and you will have an adventure of a lifetime.
And then there are national parks and private reserve you can stay in to go on an unforgettable safari. 
I created a list for you to check out and to help you, plan your next travel into the wild.

Have a look here:
Lodges, Sanctuaries & Hands on Opportunities

Thanks to a group of amazing people, I am now able to highlight that EVERYONE can have their special moment with their favorite critter in the wilderness. EVERYONE can make unforgettable memories while doing the right thing.
It takes a little bit of luck, patience and heart to do so. There is always an opportunity for the small and the big purse.



Raphael:
“Redheads gotta stick together” 🙂

Raphael took this photo in Ambue Ari wildlife sanctuary with this beautiful male red howler monkey
, named Biton. Although Biton does this of his own volition with bonded keepers, it’s only achievable safely with extensive training, study and experience.
Do NOT buy into animal attractions, wildlife ownership and animal selfie culture. This is exactly what put Biton here in the first place.
His time kept in poor conditions when he was young, most probably as a household pet (his history is unclear), has resulted in him displaying many behaviours abnormal for his species
 for example drinking out of a water bottle, aggression towards his own species and a dependence on humans for reassurance and comfort rather than other monkeys.
Biton is unlikely to ever be successfully released into the wild.
If you really want to get this close to wildlife, become a Wildworker, not a tourist or an exploiter.
Join a wildlife sanctuary like CIWY’s centres in Bolivia, get trained up, and learn to handle animals properly in order to help them.

Check out more of his adventures here:
Working in the wild

monkey wildlife selfie ethical


Sam:
Heidi, the lost Duiker 🙂

This little lost girl ran around in town and everything was prepared for relocation back into the bush. Unfortunately a pack of dogs got a hold of her and injured her.
Heidi ended up in Sam’s care, while she was helping out in a small wildlife sanctuary and simply fell in love with the fourlegger.
The two of them bonded and eventually Heidi was released into the sanctuary’s wildlife section and is now hanging out with two zebras in the safety of the reserve.
Sam is convinced that Heidi recognized her when she returned for another visit a year later.

Follow Sam’s adventures on Instagram:
Wildlife Sam


Rhiannon:
A little bit of help comes a long way 😉

While Rhiannon was working on her dissertation research, she was surprised by a very curious Barbary Macacque in Gibraltar.
When she started with the project, this young monkey began observing her,  eventually got used to her calm presence and decided to help along with recording data and writing it all on paper.



Megan:
Do not touch. Do not approach. Do not run.

Megan’s dream came true when she finally reached a group of mountain gorillas in Uganda.
I really love her story and don’t want to shorten it.

So how does one end up in the highlands of Uganda staring down the barrel of a gun?

“Why would anyone pay such a high price to spend countless sweaty hours climbing a mountain searching out gorillas?
The cost of the permit alone can be equivalent to an all-inclusive cruise through the Caribbean! Maybe it’s the fact that only a handful of people will ever be in such close proximity to one of mankind’s closest relatives, maybe it is for a feeling of personal fulfillment, maybe it’s for the Instagram. Regardless of the motivation, the experience is often described as life-changing. Why?”

Please read about the entire adventure here- it is so worth it:

Staring down the barrel

Follow her on Instagram:
The Portable Professional


Emilie:
A bird’s flight 🙂

Here is a photo (snapped by Ben Porter) of Emilie, a graduate zoologist, releasing a bird in Romania, after processing its measurements and ringing its foot for a long term population study.
On the same day, she also caught a bee eater and a golden oriole, making special memories in her heart while conducting important conservation work in Transylvania.


Rachel:
What would Africa be without its horn? 🙁

“This rhino is really special! As he is loved by hundreds of people.
Every time people come visiting this reserve, they leave with the desire to help.
I was lucky to work here last year.
Unfortunately this reserve was targeted by poachers and since then every year, the rhino horns are trimmed as a safety precaution.
We are trying to get the message out to people to ‘save the rhino, not the horn’ .
I and many people would rather have a rhino alive than none at all. Big advocate of rhino horn trimming.
And this photo was taken during one of those procedures. I got the once in a lifetime opportunity to sit next to him and feel him breathe as his chest got big and it moved me forwards and back.
A wonderful intimate experience that I got to have with this rhino, I have known now for a long time. It felt like there was no one else with him in that moment other than me.
Reminds me often that no matter the up hill struggle to keep fighting for them.
People need to know that rhino horn grows back. Being poached for it is horrible as it is simply a wasted rhino life.”
by Rachel Leeman

rhino ethical wildlifeselfie

rhino ethical wildlifeselfie


Rhiannon:
Advice from a whale:
Make a splash. Move with grace and beauty. Keep a song in your heart. Remember to come up for air. No blubbering. 😀

“In 2013 at the age of 28, when my daughter was just one year old, I decided to finally follow my childhood dream of becoming a marine biologist (still at university chasing that dream).
Orca are my main passion but I’m in love with all cetaceans and pretty much anything that lives in the ocean. While I am extremely opposed to cetacean captivity and this was a cause I’d love to be able to help with, thankfully there is no such thing these days in New Zealand, so my attention turned more to helping at strandings.
Mass strandings are a common occurrence here, so being able to help is a dream come true.
At the end of 2014 at this stranding, I was lucky enough to meet and work along side Floppy who is a co founder of Whale Rescue Org.
Now as apart of the Whale Rescue Org team, I keep up to date with rescue techniques and am always ready to get to any stranding at short notice.
There are stranding response teams in most countries that usually offer training which if you are coastal or visiting the beach a lot, I highly recommend. 
Even just a quick bit of research about the basics can be the difference between a success or not, or the difference between an animal having broken pectoral fins etc.
Whale Rescue Org is on Facebook and is happy to supply information as is Project Jonah.
by Rhiannon Tucker

 


Tereza:
Sink beneath the surface and you are free 🙂

“As harmless as snorkelling might seem, as with any other form widlife watching, it does come with certain ethics. The basic rules to stick with is not touching anything, not standing up, not chasing fish and other water creatures and not using sunscreen or using a bio degradable one. These rules are perfectly followed by all river snorkeling tours in Bonito Brazil.
Unlike sea snorkeling, the ethics of river snorkeling are a bit easier to follow, as the water carries you and thus it’s easier to follow the not standing rules.
Before beginning the tour, which is limited to a group of max. 9 people, tour guides explained to us how to swim and what to do in order to preserve the fragile environment. It is only allowed to use hands to change direction and let the stream carry you with the river flow. The professional and environmental approach the guides in Bonito have is the reason, I would definitey recomend any of the Bonito river snorkeling tours. It was very nice and relaxing, watching the quiet river life.”
by Tereza Letalova

Read the whole story here:
https://www.czickontheroad.com/brazil/bonito-river-snorkeling

 

Bret:
Once in a lifetime 🙂

“The land of a thousand hills” is best known for the endangered Mountain Gorillas of Volcanoes National Park, which were made famous by late primatologist Dian Fossey (and the biopic of her life, Gorillas in the Mist). There are currently 10 habituated gorilla families open to tourist visits, so trekking permits are limited to a mere 80 per day. Being surrounded by mamas, babies, and massive Silverback gorillas is an incredibly engaging experience you’ll never forget.”
by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett 

Follow them here:
Mountain Gorillas


Tasha:
The world is your oyster 😉

“A couple of years ago I volunteered on a game reserve in South Africa. It was my first time in Africa and I fell completely in love with the wildlife. Each afternoon, we’d go on a game count which was basically a safari. I loved the anticipation of not knowing what would be around each corner though, over the two weeks, I was a little disappointed about not seeing any lions. Then, on my final morning we went on a dawn drive and I finally saw not one, but two male lions! It was one of the greatest moments of my life. I’ve made mistakes involving unethical animal encounters in the past so seeing them in the wild felt right. Nothing beats seeing an animal in their true habitat.”
by Tasha Oyster

Follow Tasha’s adventures here:
The Oyster’s World

Instagram:
The world is your oyster


Ross:

“This photo was taken while volunteering at CIWY in Bolivia. They care for a range of animals from the illegal pet trade. I cared for over 30 capuchin monkeys and also took pictures of the animals. Including a bear, Puma, spider monkeys, coatis and more. These photos were used in CIWYs calendar to help them raise money for the 3 centres they have. This photo was captured by one of the other volunteers. It was while I was sitting down taking photos. One of the older spider monkeys came and sat on my lap and wanted me to groom her.”

Ross is writing and illustrating a children’s book. Please have a look and support his work as the all profits will go to CIWY to support their work on the ground, saving animals.
Hey Hilde
He also put together a colouring book of endangered animals. All profits go to CIWY for this too.
Color your animals



Suzanne:
Of small feet and elephants 🙂

“I was in Lopè National Park, Gabon, Central African Republic in February with my university (University of Stirling) as part of my Tropicl Ecology and Conservation module and this was my first encounter with forest elephants… the smallest elephant species in Africa. Unfortunately my phone wasn’t strong enough to capture their picture but I did manage to fit in one of their footprints!
This trip was an experiance I won’t soon forget and hopefully will have many more opportunities!”
by Suzanne Pardon

 


Danielle:
Of Komodos and Wizard Staffs 🙂

“T
his was November 2015. I went with four guys on a scuba trip to Komodo National Park. We spent our decompression day above the water looking for the dragons – you have to go on a guided tour with a dude with a wizard staff that will keep them away from you, but it was so hot, they cared about shade and not us. Fun fact – their saliva is lethal in 6 hours. The closest medicine is 10 hours away.”
by Danielle DeVoy

Follow her adventures on Instagram:
sweetdstravelblog

Or join her blog:
Of lipsticks and pint glasses


Tamlyn:
Into the wild 🙂

This serval was picked up in the bush without his mom.
Tamlyn looked after the little guy until he was strong enough to live outside. As he was so small he did not learn to hunt by himself thus was still dependent on her to feed him.
 For a long time he came and went as he pleased and one day he simply decided to return to the wild forever.
He was never really tame.

Follow Tamlyn’s adventures on horseback:
Into the wild


Karin:
Elephant Magic 🙂

Game drives are full of surprises and amazing opportunities for wildlife encounters in their natural environment.
Karin and her husband decided to go on a weekend into the bush in the Sabi Sands reserve and not only saw the Big 5 but also got up, close and personal with a wild elephant!


Teresa:
Encounters at waterholes 😛

Sometimes all you need to do is stay on the deck of your lodge, with a refreshing drink in hand, observing the ponds and watering holes and magic will happen, as it always does in Africa.



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