watching out for wildlife

wildlife watching kenyaWhen the ‘call of the wild’ comes to you, it’s good to keep in mind how you can view wildlife in an optimum way. A way that enables you to experience wildlife behaving naturally and that doesn’t stress the animals. Intrepid’s friends at the World Society for the Protection of Animals, the Kenya Wildlife Service and the Born Free Foundation have helped us compile the following tips:

- Respect the ‘personal space’ of the wildlife in their habitat. If a visitor or 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.

- Be as unobtrusive as possible – speak quietly – do not call out, whistle or in other ways try and attract the attention of animals. Noise disturbs them and may also antagonise fellow visitors. Avoid sudden movements.

- Be aware 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 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.

- Do not touch wild animals, as you can unwittingly pass on diseases to wildlife, as well as placing yourself at risk.

- Stay in your vehicle at all times, except at designated picnic, walking or camping areas.

- Leave no litter, including food scraps and cigarette butts.

- 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 flashlight and never shine your light into an animals 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 exploitive operators.

Drivers/guides are instructed in the following (and you must not ask them to do otherwise):
- Keep below the maximum speed limit. In most National Parks this is 40kph/25 mph.
- Never drive off the road (in National Parks). This can severely damage the habitat. In a reserve that allows off-road driving, the guide needs to be aware of and adhere to where they can and cannot drive. This refers to the type of soil and vegetation of the area.
- When viewing wildlife, keep to a minimum distance of 20 meters and pull to the side of the road so that others can pass. The number of vehicles at a sighting should be controlled whenever possible – being sensitive to other visitors’ viewing and not crowding in an animal on the move.
- When a pride of lions or a leopard is hunting, and they stop to listen or to smell the air, switch off your vehicle and keep your guests quiet.
- Never cut an animal off. Remember they have the right of way in their environment. If an animal has to change direction because of your vehicle, you are interfering.
- Never use your vehicle to get an animal to move. Try to anticipate what the animal is going to do and position your vehicle accordingly.
- In some parks, night game driving is not allowed and you must make camp or leave the park before dusk.

The Intrepid Foundation – travellers making a difference
Help support WSPA and other great organisations via the Intrepid Foundation, plus find out how your donation can be matched* by Intrepid Travel!

* Donations will be matched by Intrepid Travel up to AU$5000 (or equivalent) per donor and a total of AU$400,000 each financial year.

* photo by Laura Ferguson – Intrepid Photography Competition

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll read about Sue's travel experiences, find helpful travel advice and she loves sharing great tales from Intrepid travellers.

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