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Animal welfare and wildlife tourism

See also  ecotourism, wildlife conservation and environmental education
webpages on welfare of wild animals     local help for injured and orphaned wildlife

                                                          red flying
                                                          foxThe feelings of animals

Anyone who has known the friendship of a dog cannot doubt that non-human animals share some of our feelings. 

It's impossible to know exactly what they feel, but  pleasure, pain, excitement, fear, anger, jealousy and affection appear to form a normal part of the lives of many creatures.
Attempts to explain their behaviour while denying such sensations are often convoluted and unconvincing.

A interesting discussion can be found here on animal consciousness and feelings.

Where there is doubt as to the level of distress that may be caused, we choose to err on the side of caution and compassion.

Conservation and animal welfare

Wildlife conservation focuses on preserving species and not interfering with natural processes.

Animal welfare  is a separate issue which recognises the well-being of individual animals, whether or not there is a conservation issue involved.

                                                          rockwallabyConservation and welfare usually do go hand in hand, but some decisions however are difficult.
If an animal has been caught by a native predator but still alive and suffering, do we leave the predator to its meal or intervene to end the animal's pain?  
We do interfere in circumstances where the suffering threatens to be prolonged, such as if the predators are ants and it looks like the animal will take a long time to die but obviously still conscious.  An animal bitten by a venomous snake on the other hand will soon succumb, and the snake does need a meal.

Although we do not normally feed any wildlife, if a long drought or a fire has left a shortage of resources, we would consider offering appropriate food and water to help them through a tough spell.  After all, our own species has removed much wildlife habitat, so if there is a problem in one site they can not always simply move to another.

We help common animals  - galahs, rainbow lorikeets, brushtail possums, noisy miners etc. - that are injured as well as rare ones,  just as we would also help an injured dog or horse: they are still animals capable of suffering, regardless of conservation value.

Even though common animals such as eastern grey kangaroos or brushtail possums may not incur any conservation problems through being disturbed, we don't wish to cause distress by separating mothers from joeys or deterring the animals from using their favourite feeding grounds.  So in the interests of both conservation and animal welfare, we generally aim to leave all animals doing whatever they were doing when we first sighted them.

Injured and orphaned animals

                                                          fruitbatAnimals found injured on the road, young animals obviously separated from parents etc.  are taken to carers or to a local  veterinary surgeon.  Snakes, lizards and turtles may not show their feelings as clearly as mammals and birds but this is no reason to think they do not  suffer, and they are also quickly taken to vets or carers  if injured or ill.

We have in the past also cared for injured and orphaned animals ourselves, but our erratic schedules with the tourism business make this very difficult.

We are members of Bat Conservation and Rescue and the Queensland Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. The Scenic Rim Regional Council has provided us with a tall ladder (held under the name of Scenic Rim Wildlife) - available for use by other rescuers, as Darren and Ronda have had problems with reaching fruitbats stuck in cocos palms.

Pest animals

South American cane toads on our property are disposed of as swiftly and with as little trauma as possible for the sake of the local wildlife,  many of which are poisoned by eating them. We cannot  understand the view that these animals somehow deserve to be "punished'' for being here and that a slow and painful death for them is acceptable - they never asked to come here, and their pain is presumably no less real than that of native frogs. 

Other animal welfare considerations


The wildlife parks we visit on our tours have an excellent reputation both in animal welfare and conservation. Some of our guests have an aversion to keeping any animal in captivity, but conservation breeding can help keep a highly-endangered species going until such time as we can adequately protect and restore their habitat an re-introduce them to the wild (I prefer walking without crutches, but if I have a badly-injured foot I appreciate the crutches until it heals). It also provides a good chance for people to have a close-up look and get to know and care about animals they may never see in the wild.  Many animals do appear to adapt very readily to life in captivity as long as conditions are good.

We have refused work experience or employment to more than one person showing callousness towards animals (including invertebrates - swatting flies is acceptable, but a prospective employee who caught a fly, pulled its wings off, put it down and said "now let's see you fly" was not showing the kind of attitude we welcome here).

We do not buy products that are known to involve cruelty to animals or major conservation problems.  We do not for instance buy palm oil products (it would be possible to harvest palm oil in a way that is environmentally sustainable and in keeping with animal welfare, but the continued encroachment on native forests results in the decline and suffering of orangutans and other tropical Asian species and it is often unclear as t whether the palm oil in a particular product is from a sustainable source), or egg or meat products that are not free-range.  We haven't eaten pig products for years because of the tiny  enclosures these very active-minded animals are restricted to throughout their lives, but have now found a source of RSPCA-approved free-range pig products, with a couple of outlets in Brisbane.

Sample of web pages on welfare of wild animals, including some debates. See for instance:

galahsSites related to helping local wildlife include: