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The truth about travel and wildlife conservation

Hiral on Travel and Wildlife Conservation

Wildlife conservation Volunteering

What are your thoughts on Wildlife Conservation volunteering holidays?

Wildlife conservation volunteering holidays, in my opinion, are great only when it is ethical which so often is not the case. For a long time, many organisations have used wildlife as a means to make money and often the wildlife are not treated as they should be and where the money could go to local communities, it does not.

Luckily, there are organisations that are doing it right. I can’t list them all (have a look at conservation volunteering Facebook groups). I will tell you about an organisation that I worked with in Peru called CDS. My hosts were exceptional people and that is often the first step in knowing that your volunteer experience will be great.

So before volunteering, I suggest communicating with the leaders of the organisation first and do a bit of research to what the reviews are like. Another good tip is to find out how your volunteering will benefit the organisation. It should be about value exchange and not the fact that you are experiencing an encounter with some kind of wildlife. Animals need to be treated with respect as much as humans do.

Hiral on Travel and Wildlife Conservation

Wildlife conservation tours

Let’s talk about travel tours. Tours are responsible for a large number of travellers and the way they travel. Not a lot of them really consider the impact that tour groups have on the environment. We would love to hear your thoughts on tour companies. How to find the right tour companies that really do care about wildlife conservation and responsible travel. Can you recommend any from personal experience?

This is such a great question and I am really fortunate to work with a company that is promoting ethical and sustainable conservation tours! Terra Incognita was started to promote ethical tourism around the world and we have a team of volunteers that help to find sustainable tour companies around the world. Have a look at their page and you will find the best ecotours around the world. Another great way to find tours is to look at various conservation organisations that run tours. This is really sustainable as the money from the tours go directly back to the organisation. Here are two that I highly recommend: Save The Frogs and Save The Snakes.

Sustainable Travel

What do we, as travellers need to know about our footprint on nature when travelling? What are the things we may not notice? What are your tips for sustainable travel?

The most important thing to note is that flying releases large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere so wherever possible either take trains, buses or taxis or, take direct flights and use airlines that are sustainable. Here is a great site to calculate your carbon footprint. Obviously, I completely understand that travelling internationally requires flying, so I tend to justify it with my specific reason for travelling. For me its almost always wildlife and conservation reasons but for others, it is important to understand the value of that travel experience and think about the cost to the planet. Other ways to travel sustainably is to use sustainable and recyclable items such as toiletries, spending less than you need to and essentially travelling like a minimalist. If you really want to travel sustainably, just do a quick bit of research and you will find tons of options. Here is a great site!

Hiral on Travel and Wildlife Conservation

Resources and Learning

What are your favourite resources and learning devices to really learn about nature and how we can do better for the world?

YouTube! Haha, it’s probably one of the best platforms to learn anything really and there’s tons of great information about nature, various nature organisations and basically how everything works. Blogs are great and if you do a quick search for nature blogs, you will find great info based on personal experiences. Social media is also a great place to find information about various environmental organisations, the work that they do and how they are contributing to the bigger picture.

Your experiences

Tell us about some of your favourite projects you have contributed to whilst you have been travelling

Some of my favourite projects while travelling include finding frogs in the middle of the cloud forest of Peru for a husbandry project. We were trying to breed them to learn more about their evolutionary behaviour. I was also involved with some organic farming also in Peru. I did a really cool transect project to see what species occurred on the rocky coasts of one of the beaches in South Africa. I’ve done quite a few wildlife projects traveling around South Africa.

Where are some of the places travellers should visit to help support the work of great organisations and what are some places we should avoid? E.g – certain parks, or certain “nature reserves”

Nature reserves are great to visit because they contribute to tourism and often you find some great environmental organisations working relatively close by that do research in the area. When out in nature, always read the signs and be sure to stay on the right hiking trails because if you get lost and aren’t equipped for the wilderness, you could face some difficulties.

What are your plans for the future, travel and work wise?

I am actually hoping to do a PhD in Australia next year. I would like to eventually settle down there so if a job comes before the PhD then it would be fantastic! I would love to increase the awareness of snakes in Australia, largely through the support of the organisation that I already work for, Save The Snakes. Travel wise, I am always on the lookout for opportunities to get funding and contribute to herpetology research through expeditions or other environmental organisations. I am hoping to go to a conference in New Zealand next year as well.

Travel and Wildlife Conservation

What is the reason behind your wildlife conservation passion?

My passion started off with a love for nature and animals, the outdoors and exploration. I was always that kid playing outdoors with dirt, looking up at the clouds and stars and questioning how it came to be. That love quickly turned into a passion for conserving wildlife when I spent more time learning about wildlife, ecology and evolution and realised the negative impact of humans on nature. What drives me every day is creating a balance between nature and humans and technology because that is the only sustainable way our planet will survive.

Can you give us any examples of heartbreaking moments in your career and travel?

I have had my fair share of ups and downs like most people and one of the toughest parts of traveling is saying goodbye to the people that you create really great bonds with.

As far as heartbreaking moments I would say after my amazing two and half month stay in Peru, I had to come back to South Africa in May 2017 because my South African visa was about to expire. I was offered a Volunteer Coordinator position at the research station in Peru but due to visa issues, I could not take it. When I got back to South Africa, I applied for this incredible herpetology job with a great organisation and I would have got it, but unfortunately, they couldn’t offer me a work visa. After having two of the most amazing months of my life, I felt like this was a really low point in my life as I had no job, I couldn’t really do much and I felt I had no direction.

However, that was due to circumstances, so being the mentally strong person that I am and applying everything I had learnt from being in the forest, I realised how resilient I really was. I knew I could keep working towards my larger goal of wildlife conservation and making a difference, in one way or another, and I kept trying to find a way. That’s when I worked on my blog, started networking with people via email, working voluntarily for organisations and that led me to all the great work experiences I have had. That rough period taught me that no matter how bad things get, never give up and keep trying.

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If you have an interest in Wildlife conservation and travel you can read more about it from Hirals blog or chat to her on our She Roams Solo Platform. Join for free here and reach out to her via her profile.

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Hiral on Travel and Wildlife Conservation

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