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The recent release of Disneys The Lion King has p

first_imgThe recent release of Disney’s The Lion King has put the African wildlife in the spotlight, sparking interest for travellers seeking an African safari experience.With this also comes a dark side, as more people are keen to get up close and personal with the wildlife in the wrong way. For example, to cuddle with a Simba (lion cub), is attracting visitors to the unethical tourism practices. Canned lion farms often take young lions from their mothers and allow tourists to pay to cuddle them.Tourists are fed with the lie that the lion cubs were abandoned, or their mothers injured, and they are there to be looked after until old enough to be released back into the wild. The truth is, these lion cubs will grow to be hunted and shot.The good news is, there are many ways you can ethically enjoy a South African wildlife and safari experience. You just need to know who you are booking with.Book with reputable companiesAustralian company and African Specialist, Bench Africa, is always delighted when its clients show an interest in conservation and sustainable practises when in South Africa and encourage them to get involved if the opportunity is there.There has to be a certain amount of caution required though with ethical conservation activities as for many years there have been operators touting their conservation bona fides whilst engaged in unhelpful or harmful behaviour. Walking with the lions is one such example.  There is a large amount of due diligence required by both the client and the agent in regard to these activities to make sure they put their money where their mouth says its going.Image: interactive animal experiencesIt is important to book with companies that uphold strict standards when it comes to this. According to Cameron Neill from Bench Africa, the company has a blanket ban on all interactive animal experiences.“Defined, interactive animal experiences are activities that take animals away from natural behaviour and often from natural environments,” Cameron explained.For example, the meerkat visits in South Africa are conducted in their natural environment with limited or zero contact with guests (which is of course at the animals discretion) and in these cases the animals are merely habituated to the presence of people, not trained out of natural behaviours.This is similar with animals on safari, they remain wild animals in wild spaces but habituated to safari vehicles viewing them respectfully.  We try to educate travel agents as best as possible on the differences through our channels as well as through our reservations team.Do it for the right reasonsTravellers often want to get involved, but it is important to do it for the right reasons. The difficult part is to distinguish the difference between actual conservation work (which is often less glamorous) and the faux conservation that trends so well on Instagram. Whilst the latter has been a big movement in the past the most recent trend is for engaged experiences with authentic activities and more about the experience itself, less about the sharing of it with an online audience.To learn more about wildlife experiences and safari’s in South Africa, visit South Africa Tourism’s website at Ethical TravelSouth AfricaSouth Africa Tourismlast_img