It’s a big question, and a difficult one to answer. How beneficial is human-wildlife interaction, and how much harm might it cause?
Often wildlife activities or viewings are advertised as ‘eco-friendly’ and supportive of wildlife because part of the price or additional encouraged donations goes to the conservation of the animals. Furthermore, they are seen in their ‘natural’ habitats and are in a protected, comfortable environment.
But critics have commented recently that even if the animals are not obviously enduring harm, the long-term effects may not be so sustainable. Of course, when animals are around humans habitually, their reactions and behaviours change. They may not flee from predators or poachers as they naturally would.
On your next eco-tourism outing, you might consider going to an animal sanctuary for rescued animals that cannot be returned to the wild, or view animal behaviour from a distance that doesn’t allow interactions between you and that particular species. As exciting as it may be to have a macaque on your shoulder – it may also contribute to the poaching and trade of these beautiful animals.