Growing up, I loved the National Geographic. My grandpa would get them so I would always spend hours looking at all the amazing pictures of people and cultures.
But my favorites were always the animal pictures. I mean.. where else is a kid from the Pacific Northwest going to see a giant squid?
Or get to swim with whale sharks…or any sharks for that matter? I always wanted a chance to get up close to see these amazing water creatures move in their world.
Now-a-days, thanks to many companies, you can. Whether it’s whale sharks or just whales. But while this service brings us closer to some wonderful animals and expands our personal love for the world, is it also doing more harm than good?
Let’s have a look at both sides of the animal tourism debate, shall we?
he’s swimming with the fishes… no really, he is!
When it comes to animal tourism, there are a few really good things that come from it. The biggest is an awareness of the world and what is happening and what we could be losing.
Practices like Whaling are still legal in parts of the world. But groups are trying to show governments that tourism and whale watching can bring more profit. They hope it can help to change minds.
Also, due to these endeavors, a lot of effort has gone into conservation of these creature’s natural habitats. People have sought to preserve their land and water which might not have been done otherwise. For many of these animals, it’s a chance to step back from the brink of extinction.
Just look at the manatee… In 1991 there were around 1,200 manatee in Florida and now, because of conservation and tourism, there are around 6000 manatee. And they are so close to coming off the list of endangered species. Bottom line is that spending time in the water with amazing creatures leads to amazing things.
The other shoe drops
There are a lot of pros for animal tourism. But there are also some things that are not so great.
One thing is that people tend to forget that these are wild animals… in the wild… and they will act wildly. When we spend too much time in the water around creatures like whales, stingrays or even jelly fish you run the risk of getting hurt or hurting the animal.
Again, a lot has been done to conserve the oceans and build sanctuaries for these sea animals. But we are also destroying habitats as we search around for cool shells in the water.
As underwater tours keep growing in popularity, more and more people and animals will be at risk of getting hurt by one another.
one last thought
Animal tourism is going to keep growing because we, as humans, are fascinated by things we don’t know and haven’t seen.
Therefore, it’s our responsibility to be as safe as possible and do our best to protect those that can’t protect themselves.
So, go to the coast and watch the whales, check out the tide pools and rock out to music on your Waterproof iPod Shuffle from Underwater Audio. And have a blast! Just remember to be respectful of nature and to be safe.
Until next time, swim fast and have fun.