WildChoices aims to improve the state of the captive wildlife tourism industry in South Africa by assisting local and international tour operators, agents, and individual travellers to make informed choices about captive wildlife tourism facilities in South Africa.
Our work also helps to provide a potential road map to reform for and of the captive wildlife tourism industry.
(DECLARATION: WildChoices is an independent and private initiative, and holds no affiliation with or membership of SATSA.)
65% of the 227 captive wildlife tourism facilities in South Africa, when assessed using the SATSA Captive Wildlife Attractions & Activities Guidelines and Decision Tool published in 2019, fall into Avoid (Unacceptable).
Our aim is to improve the situation by encouraging tour operators, agents, and tourists to only support facilities in Support (Acceptable) and Support With Caution (Unclear), and to encourage facilities in Avoid (Unacceptable) to change their practices.
HOW IT WORKS
WildChoices identifies the captive wildlife facilities* that offer tourist attractions and activities, including interactions and volunteer programs, and assesses them by applying the publicly available SATSA Guidelines and Decision Tool to publicly available information about the facilities and their activities.
The Tool is in the form of a Decision Tree (see below) that guides the user through the rapid assessment of a facility against a series of qualifying and disqualifying criteria.
The assessment process results in one of three possible outcomes:
Support (Acceptable), Support With Caution (Unclear), or Avoid (Unacceptable).
N.B: See Page19 of the Guidelines for guidance on the interpretation of the three assessment outcome categories with specific attention to Support With Caution (Unclear).
We assess facilities prior to the experience, without visiting them, in line with the intended application of the Tool. We are constantly engaging with facilities, operators, and visitors who approach us about any assessment outcomes, and where relevant new information becomes available, assessments are reviewed and updated if necessary.
Our assessment results contain the only comprehensive list of captive wildlife tourism facilities in South Africa and their assessment outcomes serve as our support recommendation. These results are continually updated with new information to keep the list current. No publicly available information prior to 2019 has been considered in the assessment process.
Our searchable, interactive map of South Africa shows the location of the captive wildlife tourism facilities on our assessment list, colour coded per their assessment outcome.
A SWISS CHEESE APPROACH
The captive wildlife tourism space in South Africa is a complex problem. It’s unlikely that a single intervention will solve the problem, and we should rather see the solution as a Swiss cheese approach: each layer has imperfections; multiple layers improve success.
The SATSA Guidelines and Decision Tool is just one layer, designed with adoption by the tourism industry in mind. It drew a line in the sand in 2019 which represents the balance between the level of intervention and the degree of adoption by the industry, based on the knowledge gained through country-wide stakeholder engagement sessions during the development of the Guidelines and Tool. The application of additional layers (think welfare, any trade in animals, which is not illegal but regulated, individual beliefs and morals, etc.) will systematically disqualify more facilities, unless they change.
HOW TO DO YOUR OWN ASSESSMENT
- Make sure that you work through the SATSA Captive Wildlife Attractions & Activities Guidelines.
- Apply the SATSA Captive Wildlife Attractions & Activities Decision Tool to a facility based on your own research about the facility.
- Either make your support decision based on the outcome of your assessment, or add additional assessment layers based on welfare concerns, or your own individual morals and judgements, etc. and then make your support decision.
* Captive wildlife facilities are defined as facilities that keep wild animals in a human-made enclosure that is of insufficient size for the management of self-sustaining populations of the species and designed to hold the animals in a manner that prevents them from escaping and facilitates intensive human intervention or manipulation in the provision of food and/or water, artificial housing and/or healthcare.
Note: Exotic (non-indigenous) animals are automatically deemed captive due to their permit restrictions.