There has been an interesting and positive development in the South African tourism industry. SATSA, the South African tourist Association has launched a guide for tour operators and tourists to evaluate captive wildlife interactions.
The excellent and well researched guide can be downloaded here:
This guide will enable foreign and local visitors who wish to interact with animals, tour operators and others to make informed decisions that support responsible tourism in South Africa.
There is a visual guide in the form of a line in the sand, a curve going from red through orange to green. Those facilities that fall in the red category should be avoided and the line of acceptability progresses through orange to green, which includes genuine ethical establishments such as rehab centres and sanctuaries.
This is a wonderful initiative and all involved should be complemented.
I see two problems with the proper implementation of this guide:
First, lion farmers are very astute and convincing to pose as genuine sanctuaries. Only someone experienced in animal welfare and conservation in South Africa would be able to separate the good from the bad especially since there are often shades of grey.
Second, the guide establishes an excellent system for raising awareness and making better informed decisions on which facilities to support and which to avoid. But it raises the question of how conservationists and animal lovers are going to move from being better informed to having the decision made for them by some kind of certification process.
There is clearly a need for an accreditation process in which knowledgeable inspectors could decide whether a facility should be promoted by SATSA, or not.
Notwithstanding, this is a praiseworthy step in the right direction for promoting responsible tourism and giving tourists the power to promote ethical treatment of animals in their spending of tourist money. Well done SATSA.