The Amazon’s ability to draw tourists is thought to be strongly associated with the opportunity to have sight of and interact with iconic wild animals. Tourism leaders are calling for the private and public sectors to develop wildlife focused ecotourism in this region. However, specific information regarding current practice and their impact on wildlife is lacking. Although wildlife ecotourism here remains in its relative infancy, our study demonstrates that a wide variety of wildlife-focused activities are already being promoted and provided to tourists who visit the city of Manaus in Brazil. Issues of potential wildlife conservation and animal welfare concern include wildlife-baiting, swim-with free-ranging pink river dolphin activity, the use of captive wild animals as photo props and the sale of wildlife body parts as souvenirs. We found that tour guides actively promoted these activities on 77% of excursions attended, which involved a range of different wild animals, representing at least 10 different species from three different taxonomic classes. From a legal perspective, despite the potential risks imposed to wildlife and tourist well-being, there are still no specific laws regulating feeding, touching and swimming with pink river dolphins in Brazil. However, the illegality of advertising and providing direct physical contact wildlife ‘photo prop’ tourism is demonstrated by enforcement action taken by wildlife authorities during our study. We suggest that tourist focused human behavior change initiatives should become a critical component of a wider holistic approach to effectively balance wildlife protection goals and any expansion of wildlife ecotourism in the Amazon.
|Publication status||Published - 3 Oct 2017|