VANCOUVER, February 12/2004 - With March break just around the corner; many Canadians will be heading south to escape these grey days of snow and cold. And with a little bit of effort and planning, people can have a great time and be kind to animals and nature according to Al Hickey, Western Regional Director for The Humane Society of Canada. "We are asking you to leave only foot prints and to take back only photographs and memories," says Hickey.
While some people unknowingly bring back items that they shouldn’t have, others callously smuggle live animals, animal parts and plants back into the country. "People caught bringing animals or other illegal items into the country can face fines and imprisonment,” warns HSC Executive Director, Michael O'Sullivan.
"Statistics Canada reports that Canadians take over 91 million airline flights each year to the United States and overseas destinations, even though only about 22% of Canadians have passports. The world really is a very small place, and I truly believe in the power of one. The actions of even one thoughtful person can make a difference,” he said.
O'Sullivan who has been globetrotting during the past 35 years has worked in more than 90 countries says he has seen first-hand some tourists performing incredible acts of kindness, while others act without thinking. "We want people to have fun on their hard-earned vacation. That is what these tips are for; to make you stop and think about how you can be a kinder, gentler tourist. Here are 30 Tips for Being a Green Tourist in our global village:
- Buying products made from coral or tropical hardwoods contributes to the destruction of irreplaceable tropical and undersea forests. This destroys habitat for wildlife, affects local jobs, and can disrupt local and even global weather patterns.
- Don't buy live animals, animal parts or items made from animals such as animal skins, ivory and turtle shells. Once a species becomes extinct, it is lost forever.
- Tourists are often misled into believing that just because live plants and animals, and their products are openly offered for sale that this trade is not illegal under local and international laws. Suffering from a lack of resources and inspectors, many developing nations do the best they can to enforce their wildlife laws. Be smart; don't believe what shopkeepers tell you – remember they are trying to make a sale.
- Remember, your single purchase, no matter how small, endangers wildlife and nature.
- Live animals and plants are worth more alive than dead (Kenya for example, estimates that a live elephant brings in over $1.5 million in tourist revenues throughout her lifetime; and around the world, whale watching tourists spend $1.5 billion).
- Leave plants where they are, don’t pick them. They provide critical habitat and food for wildlife and people.
- Learn about the people, animals, plants and geography of the countries you are visiting. The more you understand, the more you can appreciate the beauty and unique place you are visiting.
- Don't feed, scare or interfere with wild animals, which are particularly vulnerable during nesting seasons.
- Take lots of film and capture the memories of your trip for years to come.
- Buy goods and services from small, local businesses that are environmentally friendly.
- Support charitable animal protection and conservation programs by local groups and The Humane Society of Canada.
- Protect fragile habitat by travelling established roads, nature trails and paths.
- Avoid the use of off road vehicles, or using jet skis in areas where there are dolphins or other marine mammals.
- Wherever you can, travel in an environmentally-friendly manner: walk, bicycle or use vehicles that carry several people at a time.
- Fresh, clean water is precious. Conserve and use it in a wise manner.
- Most energy is generated by burning fossil fuels. Reduce the use of fans, air-conditioners and lights; and turn them off when not in use.
- Wherever possible, eliminate or reduce your use of chemical pesticides. Try wearing long sleeve shirts and put nets over beds to keep mosquitoes and other insects away.
- Use local guides and join environmentally-friendly tourist groups. Follow their directions and do not get too close to wildlife and their young.
- Purchase locally made arts and crafts that are not made from animals or plants.
- By staying at locally owned facilities instead of multinational resorts, you put more money back into the local economy.
- Please don't have your picture taken with wild animals or birds. During the capture process, the mother may have been harmed or even killed, and many others will have died in transport. Some handlers even remove the teeth and claws of wild animals, and clip the wings of birds. Once the wild animal or bird is no longer small and cute, or becomes too hard to handle, they are replaced. Photographers, anxious for your money, often have a hard luck story about how they "rescued" the poor wild animal or bird from a terrible fate. Don't fall for their story.
- People often have romantic visions of riding a horse down a mountain trail or along a sandy beach while they watch a beautiful sunset. While there is nothing wrong with this, before you sign up, check out the condition of the horses, the shoes, the saddle, reins and the bit. If there is even the slightest concern that the horse may be mistreated, then do not go for a ride. This only encourages more cruelty to animals. Once more don't fall for the story about how the person asking you to pay for the ride has saved the horse from being "sent to the glue factory."
- If you decide to take a ride in a carriage pulled by a horse, once again check out the condition of the horse and tack. A common problem is overloading by penny-pinching tourists who want to cram the whole family into one carriage. Remember how hot it is for you, and think about how hard the horse has to work to pull an overloaded carriage in the blazing sun and strength-sapping humidity. Better yet, give the horse and break and walk.
- Many people like to feed the wild birds and animals that hang around their hotels and resorts. However, unfortunately, other tourists may complain to the management about being pestered or about the droppings they leave behind. In turn, the hotel or resort manager may use lethal means of removing the wildlife. And when there are no tourists around, these wild birds and animals have to fend for themselves.
- The same goes for feeding stray dogs and cats. Our experience has been that once again, complaints mean hotel and resort owners may harm or kill the animals, and this also encourages the pet overpopulation problem that can only be solved through spaying, neutering and responsible pet ownership.
- If you see an act of cruelty take pictures and/or use your video camera, and write down as many details as possible. When you get back home, contact The Humane Society of Canada at our website www.humanesociety.com or by calling our toll free number 1-800-641-KIND or by writing to our nearest contact address. We will investigate and do what we can by contacting local animal protection and conservation groups. Governments are concerned about bad publicity that could discourage tourism and your complaint does make a difference for animals.
- When possible, travel during the "off season" to reduce environmental impacts that take place during popular tourist seasons (it's also cheaper to travel during the off season).
- Follow the 3 R’s - reduce, reuse and recycle whenever possible.
- Minimize your use of disposable items and dispose of these items appropriately. Landfill sites are already overflowing in most tourist areas.
- Share your experiences with friends, family and others when you return home. You might even offer to provide a presentation to other interested green travellers at your local library or with your community newspaper, radio or TV station or on your favourite Internet chat group.
CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at www.humanesociety.com via twitter at www.twitter.com/HSCanada and on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Humane-Society-of-Canada/211468055538280
[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has been The HSC Western Regional Director for over 12 years. He has 4 children and 6 grandchildren. For his lifetime of achievement dedicated to helping people, animals and the environment, we have bestowed upon him our prestigious Heroes for Animals Award, shared by only a handful of people and organizations.
A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, Michael O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 110 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]
The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works to protect dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits and small animals, livestock, lab animals, wildlife and the environment. We carry out hands on programs to help animals and nature, mount rescue operations, expose cruelty through hard hitting undercover investigations, work to pass laws to protect animals, use a multidisciplinary approach, support animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centres, and spread the word about how to help animals and nature through humane education.
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