Wildlife Viewing GUIDELINES FOR DRAGOMAN TRAVELLERS
The following code has been prepared with the best interests of wildlife and the safety of our staff and travellers.
- Respect the 'personal space' of the wildlife, and give them a wide berth where possible - this is their habitat. If a visitor/vehicle causes an animal to alter its behaviour, then the visitor has invaded its space and influenced its normal behaviour. Observe nature as it occurs naturally and not as to how it responds to your presence there. Stress is harmful to animals. Also, many animals are territorial and many may look harmless but are in reality far from it (e.g. - a species like the gemsbok has evolved metre-long horns as a defence against predators and for competition with members of its own species - if you try and get too close for a photo it may defend itself!).
- Speak quietly - do not call out, whistle, clap, or use other ways try and attract the attention of animals. Noise disturbs them and may antagonise fellow visitors. Avoid sudden movements.
- Beware of the animals, they are wild and can be unpredictable. Do not get too close. Remember that if an animal charges you it is usually your fault for not having read the animal correctly and for not allowing the animal sufficient space.
- Don't feed any animals or birds. Habituating them to humans and to human food upsets their natural diet, can shorten their life and cause trouble for other people later on by making the animals unnaturally aggressive - you only have to see how aggressive baboons have become in many places for an example.
- Do not touch wild animals, as you can unwittingly pass on diseases, as well as placing yourself at risk. The animals do not want to catch your cold, and you do not want to have your hand bitten off!
- Stay in your vehicle at all times, except at designated picnic, walking or camping areas.
- Leave no litter, including food scraps and cigarette butts.
- Do not leave food or toiletries in the tents when camping amongst wildlife - this can attract animals looking for food.
- When camping amongst wildlife, keep your tents away from game trails or trees that they may feed on/roost in. Keep 2 or more metres between tents to give animals space to move in between if they wander through. Do not use guy-ropes for the same reason (they are unnecessary except in strong wind)
- Never leave fires unattended or discard burning objects, including cigarette butts. Discarded butts can result in uncontrolled fires which devastate and destroy animals and bush land.
- Night viewing - minimise usage of a torch/flashlight and never shine your light into an animal's eyes. Do not illuminate prey, as this gives the predator an unfair advantage.
- You may be offered options to visit wild animals that have been habituated or animal orphanages. Ask your tour operator or the attraction if any of the animals kept have been taken from the wild, as this places additional pressure on wild species. Ask your tour operator or the attraction if there is an active education programme at the attraction, as responsible attractions provide this. Do not give your business to exploitative operators.
- Steve White (Dragoman crew and wildlife expert)
- Kenya Wildlife Service
- South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (Field Guides Association of Southern Africa)
- Born Free Foundation
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