Wildlife Heritage Sites feasibility study released

Following a year of research and evidence gathering, Wilderlife and World Animal Protection are pleased to release an executive summary describing the feasibility of developing Wildlife Heritage Sites. 

Said Dylan Walker of Wilderlife: "This feasibility study was undertaken to find new ways of identifying wildlife sites that are meeting high standards of animal welfare, wildlife conservation, and sustainability, whilst also maintaining high tourism value. We are really pleased with the results and excited to move from a theoretical to a practical public engagement stage as we aim for launch in early 2023."


 


Next steps

Following the release of the study, World Animal Protection and Wilderlife are beginning a public consultation phase of the programme, inviting input from local communities, scientists, travel industry experts and specialist wildlife charities. If you would like to participate in the development of this initiative please contact Dylan Walker at dylan.walker@wilderlife.org


Background


The travel industry is slowly emerging from the covid-19 pandemic into a world that demands a more sustainable approach. In the last few decades, tourism has relied heavily on zoos and aquariums for ‘animal entertainment’, often neglecting issues such as poor animal welfare standards or the trade in endangered species. Now, research points to growing international demand for nature-based tourism, as animal welfare, nature conservation, and sustainable tourism in general rise up the priority list of the travelling public. Although there are a number of certification programmes focusing on wildlife conservation and sustainability, this feasibility study shows that the concept of Wildlife Heritage Sites (WLHS) - places where a deep and respectful connection exists between a custodian community and a wild species, species group, or habitat - is a unique offering. WLHS will certify outstanding destinations for responsible wildlife watching tourism, offering locally relevant expert guidance to help achieve high quality animal welfare, fair and effective nature conservation, and sustainable practices in places where communities have a strong connection with nature through their cultural heritage. 

But that is only half of the story. WLHS will raise the bar for grass-roots empowerment within a framework that encourages an ever more respectful relationship between people and wildlife. In so doing, WLHS will be well positioned to overcome the linguistic, religious, economic, cultural, political and other challenges that local communities face today. The custodian communities of WLHS will have enormous influence over the programme itself, by applying, assessing, managing, and collaborating to manage the sites. Ultimately these communities will adapt the programme and improve it to further benefit wildlife and people. This is a brave and necessary approach. As the window of opportunity to protect the world’s wildlife from suffering and loss narrows every day, the need to empower the people on the frontline to further protect wildlife in their local communities grows stronger by the hour. In WLHS we have a global programme that can meet that need.


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