A Journey in the Wild and What Happens After

Written by Angela Alcaraz
Illustration by Denise Maxine Mendoza and Mae Garrido Pon
Published 2021 November 22

Many people dream of traveling the world for one reason or another. Maybe they want to see the historical sites of each country, learn new cultures that are different from their own, or just have a chance to relax. Or, perhaps, they want to enjoy the beauty of the natural world. This is how wildlife tourism came to be. Wildlife tourism is about interacting and observing local animal and plant life in their natural habitat.[1] Essentially, it is tourism that involves wildlife.[2] Wildlife tourism can come in many forms such as as safari tours, mountain tourism, diving, elephant riding, and many more.[1,2] The Philippines is one of the countries in the world with the richest biodiversity with almost 75% of the world’s biodiversity found within it.[3] Because of this, it is not surprising that the wildlife tourism industry is also found in the country. One of the many wildlife tourism that can be done in the Philippines involves watching and feeding whale-sharks in places such as Oslob, Cebu.[4] Wildlife tourism is done in many places around the world and, of course, it has its own effects on both wildlife and people.

These effects can be beneficial. One such benefit is the education of the public regarding wildlife and conservation.[5] When tourists travel and view the natural habitat of an animal, they would gain more awareness of the importance of conservation and be able to learn how they can help.[5] They may even spread awareness about it.[5] It can also help those who work in wildlife tourism to recognize the inherent value of wildlife.[6] Another benefit would be funding conservation efforts.[2,5] Tourists pay to be able to view and interact with the wildlife.[2,5] The revenue from this business would be used to fund the conservation efforts.[2,5] There are other benefits to wildlife tourism such as research.[2]

However, everything comes with its downsides and wildlife tourism is no different. One of those downsides is the introduction of diseases whether it jumps from an animal to a human or a human to an animal.[2,7] When tourists interact with animals, there is always a risk that a disease would be spread.[2] Another would be changes in the behavior of the animal.[2] This can be due to the interactions of the tourists with animals,[8] especially when they are feeding them. This popular tourist attraction, also known as provisioning, has effects on the animals involved, changing their behavior which has implications on their ecology.[9] The whale sharks in the Philippines are an example of this.

In fact, there are some studies on it. One such study, entitled “Changes in diving behaviour and habitat use of provisioned whale sharks: implications for management,” focused on examining the diving behavior and habitat use of whale sharks from Oslob, Cebu by comparing the diving depth and water temperature patterns of four whale sharks during days they were being fed and days they were not.[10] The results of the study showed that there were changes in diving behavior and habitat use.[10]

The diving depth of the examined whale sharks showed differences on the days they were provisioned and not provisioned. The median depth on provisioned days were shallower, during the period of time they were being fed, and deeper, during the afternoon and evening, compared to the non-provisioned days.[10] Deep dives, which have a depth of more than 200m, during provisioning days occurred after the end of provisioning period that is around 10 am to 2pm, with a high frequency during 12 noon to 1pm.[10] As for deep dives during non-provisioned days, it was consistent between 4am to 10am and infrequent during other times of the day.[10] Diving depth is important to consider because whale sharks feed on prey that move up and down the water column, so these changes in diving behavior can have implications for the whale shark’s ecosystem.[10]

There were also differences in the water temperature experienced by the whale sharks. Median temperature during provisioned days are higher during the time they were being provisioned and lower during the afternoon as compared to non-provisioning days.[10] During the evening, there were no significant differences in median temperature between the provisioned and non-provisioned days.[10] However, the median temperature during the early morning, around midnight to 6am, was higher between provisioned and non-provisioned days.[10] Temperature was measured as it can affect the physiological processes of the whale sharks. [10] The higher temperature during the provisioning period may result in an increase of the whale sharks’ body temperature and, therefore, their metabolic rate.[10]

This study was able to show us how the interaction between wildlife and tourists was able to cause a change in the whale sharks’ behavior which may have negative effects on the ecology and physiology of the animal.[10] 

Wildlife tourism has its benefits, and also its own detriments, so how can we improve on it?

One way we can improve it is through a more sustainable and responsible form of wildlife tourism. Sustainable practices in tourism aims to maximize its benefits while minimizing its negative impacts, especially on the environment.[11] Its implementation involves proactive and collaborative assessment of its impacts to ensure that the plans and policies are in line with sustainable practices.[11] It requires the involvement of all stakeholders, from the community to business and to the tourists themselves.[11] Actually, there are some tourist spots in the Philippines that are sustainable such as TANAW Park’s Ecotourism Enterprise in Rizal, Laguna which includes reforestation activities and helped enhancing the livelihood opportunities and status of the municipality.[12] 

Wildlife tourism allows us to view and interact with nature in all its majesty, but it has consequences we need to consider. As much as we want to experience the world, it is still our duty to preserve it.

References

  1. World Tourism Organization. Why Wildlife? [Internet]. [place unknown]: World Tourism Organization; [date unknown] [update date unknown; cited 2021 Nov 14]. Available from: https://www.unwto.org/asia/unwto-chimelong-why-wildlife
  2. Stainton H. Wildlife tourism: The good the bad and the ugly [Internet]. [place unknown]: Tourism Teacher; [date unknown] [updated 2020 Nov 4; cited 2021 Nov 14]. Available from: https://tourismteacher.com/wildlife-tourism/
  3. Ani PAB, Castillo MB. Revisiting the State of Philippine Biodiversity And The Legislation on Access and Benefit Sharing [Internet]. [place unknown]: FFTC Agricultural Policy Platform; 2020 [update date unknown; cited 2021 Nov 4]. Available from: https://ap.fftc.org.tw/article/1836
  4. Thomson JA, Araujo G, Labaja J, McCoy E, Murray R, Ponzo A. Feeding the world’s largest fish: highly variable whale shark residency patterns at a provisioning site in the Philippines. R. Soc. open sci [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2021 Nov 14];4:170394. Available from: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/pdf/10.1098/rsos.170394
  5. Folk E. The surprising benefits of wildlife tourism [Internet]. [place unknown]: Red, Green, and Blue; 2020 [update date unknown; cited 2021 Nov 14]. Available from: http://redgreenandblue.org/2020/06/30/surprising-wildlife-tourism/ 
  6. Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines. A new study finds that working in wildlife tourism can act as an incentive for the conservation of marine species [Internet]. [place unknown]: Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines; 2021 [update date unknown; cited 2021 Nov 14]. Available from: https://www.lamave.org/news/wildlife-tourism-incentive-for-conservation-of-marine-species 
  7. Grant B. Wildlife Tourism Can Pose Disease Threat to Wild Animals [Internet]. [place unknown]: Earth Island Journal; 2020 [update date unknown; cited 2021 Nov 14]. Available from: https://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/articles/entry/wildlife-tourism-disease-animals 
  8. Trave C, Brunnschweiler J, Sheaves M, Diedrich A, Barnett A. Are we killing them with kindness? Evaluation of sustainable marine wildlife tourism. Biol. Conserv. [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2021 Nov 14];209:211-222. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320717302288?casa_token=WCh0xQE4D9UAAAAA:b–YPBxlCDOaAhyTkBh04Lw1ixfE_PiQAHWGcG-3bEhKVWopkNR4Z6LixlKWFIoNmX4-ALzplWPW doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2017.02.020
  9. Orams MB. Feeding wildlife as a tourism attraction: a review of issues and impacts. Tour. Manag. [Internet]. 2002 [cited 2021 Nov 15];23(3):281-293. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com.oca.rizal.library.remotexs.co/science/article/pii/S0261517701000802 doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0261-5177(01)00080-2
  10. Araujo G, Labaja J, Snow S, Huveneers C, Ponzo A. Changes in diving behaviour and habitat use of provisioned whale sharks: implications for management. Sci Rep [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2021 Nov 16];10:16951. Available from: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73416-2 doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-73416-2
  11. Moore A. Ask an Expert: What is Sustainable Tourism? [Internet]. [place unknown]: North Carolina State University College of Natural Resources News; 2021 [update date unknown; cited 2021 Nov 17]. Available from: https://cnr.ncsu.edu/news/2021/07/ask-an-expert-what-is-sustainable-tourism/
  12. Brillo BBC, Simondac-Peria AC. Sustainability of a local government-instituted ecotourism development: Tayak adventure, nature and wildlife Park in Rizal, Laguna, Philippines. Environ Dev Sustain [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2021 Nov 17];23:16145–16162. Available from: http://link.springer.com.oca.rizal.library.remotexs.co/article/10.1007/s10668-021-01336-w doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10668-021-01336-w

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