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THE GOOD DOCTOR:Jane Goodall weighs in on her wild life

Jane Goodall is certainly no plain Jane. The renowned British ethologist, environmentalist and UN Messenger of Peace – now age 86 – is still pounding the pavement 300 days a year (notwithstanding currently being housebound in the UK due to the pandemic) in the service of conservation, the environment, animal rights, and the chimpanzees she has made famous for 65 years.

Recently, Dr. Goodall, who says she’s busier than ever “looking into silly little cameras” during the pandemic, looked into one pointed by G Adventures founder Bruce Poon Tip in the second of the Toronto-based tour operator’s “Retravel Live” series, which engages leading figures who affect travel on top industry issues, and to “shine a light on the power of people to enact change and contribute to making the new way of travel better for everyone.”

Entitled “Wildlife Deserves a Wild Life,” the session set out to examine travel’s impact on wildlife around the world and how travellers can do their part to help protect “the magnificent creatures we share our planet with.”

With close to a thousand viewers in attendance, Goodall took the opportunity to declare “everybody makes a difference every day,” in the fate of the planet and both its human and non-human inhabitants – even in simple, everyday decisions, such as what to eat, buy and wear.

With a smile, she mimicked a chimpanzee call to bring “the voice of the animals we all love into this meeting.”

But beyond her boundless enthusiasm, and humour, Goodall – who was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2019 by Time magazine – weighed in on the serious state of the (natural) world and both the pros and cons of tourism in balancing animal welfare with a compassion for human needs.

Poon Tip, who partnered with the Jane Goodall Institute Canada in 2016 to introduce the Jane Goodall Collection of tours by G Adventures – a program of wildlife-focused trips worldwide she endorsed – calls Goodall one of his biggest heroes and cites the tour collection as a milestone in the company’s history.

“(She) has been an inspiration to me since I started G Adventures 30 years ago… and it’s a privilege to continue the legacy of her work by raising awareness of animal protection with our travel community around the world,” he says.

Goodall’s Roots and Shoots community action program for young people has 34 chapters around the world.

Following is an edited version of Goodall’s responses to some of the questions posed by Poon Tip and webinar attendees:

What are your thoughts about the travel industry today?

We need to do things differently. As the world got wealthier and more people started to travel, they were in so many instances of destroying by sheer numbers the places they were going to see – many people who hadn’t had the opportunity to learn about the places they were going and tour operators who simply wanted more people to get more money and didn’t seem to care about the environment. So, culturally and environmentally, travel was going wrong.

One of the things to avoid is more people: the secret is tourism that is controlled. The number of people that are allowed in, and how long they can stay, and that is tough, but it has to be. So many operators never talk about the negative side because they want the customer, so they paint a rosy picture and don’t tell the people, who might not go if they realize their going would be distressing to the animal.

What effect is the pandemic having on the natural world?

This pandemic has really given a push to the way we have mistreated and disrespected animals and the environment. We have brought this pandemic on ourselves by forcing animals into closer contact with humans as we destroy their habitat, hunting them, eating them, killing them, trafficking them, selling them for food for medicine, exotic pet trade, selling them for their skins. And factory farms, by the way, for domestic animals. All of these things create the perfect conditions for a pathogen, like a virus, to jump from an animal to a person.

Has the pandemic had an effect on the problem of poaching?

Certainly, in some places, the lack of tourism indeed has led to increased poaching, in two ways. One, the government or the national parks haven’t got the revenue coming in from tourism to actually pay the rangers who are there to look after the animals. And so, the international cartels can come swooping in and kill an elephant or a rhino with very little opposition… But the other problem is local people were being paid by tourism: as guides, or in hotels and lodges. And they’re not being paid anymore, so they’re going into the parks and poaching animals, just simply to keep alive, to eat.

Is responsible tourism good for animal conservation?

One, it takes foreign exchange in, so the central government is happy. Two, it helps to pay the staff and the rangers who can actually protect the animals. Three, there’s no question that the people who go on these tours come back with a passion for helping conservation… So responsible tourism is something that’s necessary and important.

Do you agree with the argument from the trophy hunting lobby that the practice is good for conservation?

I don’t understand it. Trophy hunting does not help conservation. They are hunting endangered species and the lions with the biggest manes, and that alters the genes. They say they shoot the oldest animals (but) they don’t have a clue. It’s shocking.

What is your view on cultural animal welfare issues (like bullfighting)?

I honestly think it depends. Some (rituals) are quite brutal… There are elephants in temples that they say are gods and that’s what people go to see, but actually the treatment is so cruel. Those things have to change. And tourists can play a major role by saying, ‘If you continue to treat them that way, then we’re not going to come and you won’t get our money.’

What about zoos?

There are some very, very good zoos and a good zoo will have a suitable enclosure, caring and educated keepers. In addition, many people have told me, ‘I first got my love of animals because I met the eye of an elephant or a chimpanzee in a zoo.’ And the best zoos are putting a lot of money into conservation out in the field and in a zoo a veterinarian can learn about working with wild animals and they are increasingly taking those skills out to help people fight the battle to save animals in the field. But some zoos should be closed and shouldn’t exist.

How should the travel industry proceed post-pandemic?

It’s an ethical problem, you don’t want to ban people from low income brackets from going out to see wild animals, but on the other hand, those people go on package tours, which means there’s many of them. I know from being on the ground the effect that it can have when you have too many people; and if you only have a few, it’s much more expensive. So, I don’t know, that’s your job! People all go to the big national parks, they congregate around (the animals), but there’s so many places tourists haven’t been…

What can people do from home to help the planet?

Donations are really what’s helping some of these parks keep going. Getting involved in our Roots and Shoots program so that young people are learning about the problems; and they’re really good at coming up with solutions! My biggest hope for the future is that once they understand the problem, and are empowered, it’s incredible what they are doing. Anybody (including adults) can start a Roots and Shoots program… Clean a stream, raise money for refugees, get involved in something you’re passionate about and realize it’s making a difference

Do you have a final message?

I want to say to everybody: Never forget that every single day you live that you make an impact on this planet – and you have a choice as to what kind of impact you make.


First published at Travel Industry Today

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