A Wildlife Watching Code of Conduct
One of the ways that animal advocates have been able to protect certain wild animal species is by diverting human interest away from activities such as hunting, and instead encouraging ecotourism and wildlife watching. While hunting and fishing are thought of as “consumptive” activities, watching wildlife is a way of “using” the animals to generate income. There is no consumption and, ideally, it creates no disturbance either. However, due to an increasing interest in wildlife tourism, there is a growing need to ensure it remains balanced with the protection of wildlife. Even activities as seemingly innocuous as wildlife watching can cause stress and disturbances among species that are supposed to be protected.
Taking a multidisciplinary approach and combining various data sets, this study looks at potential human disturbances among harbour seals during land-based seal watching. Combining the data, the researchers found that it may be worthwhile to create a “code of conduct” to provide “a sustainable relationship between watchers and watched within wildlife tourism.” They suggest that the code should be based upon two key aspects. The first is the biological aspect: “through the examinations of how seals are affected by tourism and identification of the types of tourist activities that should be avoided.” Secondly, the social aspect: “through the understanding of the differences in tourist behaviour and tourist perception.” The purpose of the code is to give the act of wildlife watching more clarity to “facilitate communication between stakeholders at the destination and reconcile the sometimes contradictory interests in wildlife tourism.”
This study highlights a number of interesting considerations for wildlife advocates about how to improve wildlife watching activities, and shows how combining data from different disciplines can yield important new results.