Animal interactions continue to be an issue, in a tourism industry striving to offer more sustainable and responsible activities.
As a result, the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA) has developed a comprehensive Tool to assist the international travel industry, visitors and volunteers to make ethical and morally informed decisions around which types of tourism facilities they should or should not support in Southern Africa.
The launched their Animal Interaction Guidelines comes after a 12-month study into Animal Interactions in the tourism industry and the impact that these experiences have had on the image of South Africa.
SATSA says it believes that visitors to Southern Africa can still connect with the wilderness, where nature and ecosystems can be enjoyed in their original and natural state. They took this opportunity to find a "home-grown" approach to the growing presence of captive animal attractions in the tourism industry in a time of rising global disapproval of these exploitative practices.
"South Africa in the past has been known for its good 'best-practice' principles in conservation and [the animal interaction] industry is definitely tarnishing that," said Keira Powers, SATSA Animal Interaction Committee Chairperson at Conservation Lab 2019.
Following the release of the guides lines, Blood Lions Official issued a statement saying SATSA's thorough and comprehensive study of wildlife interactive tourism in South Africa draws a very clear 'line in the sand' as to what is not acceptable in terms of human activities with wildlife.
It outlines 10 specific principles related to responsible and ethical treatment of animals. This includes "cub petting; walking with lions; training of animals to 'perform' or behave unnaturally; attractions which cause animals fear or discomfort; and activities that put animals or humans in any kind of danger".
The current "understanding of animal sentience and knowledge of animal behaviour has advanced significantly over time - This has enabled a greater understanding of how the misuse of animals is detrimental to the animals' welfare, and damages the respect that humans have for these animals, states Blood Lions.
"We appreciate that SATSA does not have the directive to regulate or legislate this industry, but they have now 'set the stage' to position Brand South Africa positively, and clearly expect the authorities (such as SA Tourism, TBCSA and NDT as well as environmental and agricultural departments) to rise to the challenge and stand united in taking these guidelines forward."