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Since 2015, all G Adventures tours have adhered to an Animal Welfare Policy. This prohibits our travellers from interacting with animals in a way that causes direct or indirect harm — animals can’t be used as photo props, for instance, and wild animals cannot be held, touched or fed. We adopted these policies in order to ensure our trips are as sustainable as possible, while ensuring the well-being and comfort of the world’s animals. In 2016, Dr. Jane Goodall recognized and congratulated G Adventures on our our Animal Welfare policy and personally endorsed the Jane Goodall Collection by G Adventures, a curated program of 20 wildlife-focused tours.
We hope our approach to animal welfare — and the opportunities our travellers have to learn about the importance of respecting wildlife and working animals alike — will allow us to help make the world a better place through travel, and inspire others to do the same.
Here, Emily Mikus, G Adventures' South America Product Manager — who was instrumental in the formation of G’s Animal Welfare Policy — explains why animal welfare is important to G Adventures, and how it helps us contribute toward sustainable travel and tourism.
Q: Can you explain what our Animal Welfare Policy is?
A: With these guidelines, we are ensuring that any animals have access to the Five Freedoms. Those are freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from discomfort, freedom from pain, injury or disease, freedom to express normal behaviour, and freedom from distress.
Q: How did you put this policy together?
A: It started back in 2014, where we wanted to do an assessment of all of our included animal experiences throughout our tours. We adopted the guidelines developed by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) in conjunction with the Born Free Foundation, a third-party organization whose mission is to protect vulnerable animals from abuse.
We have around 750 tours worldwide, and we reached out to all of our suppliers with animal experiences and asked them to fill out a questionnaire created by ABTA (you can read more about ABTA here) to ensure we adhered to the guidelines. If they did not meet the requirements we either offered advice on how to improve their practices or we stopped working with them.
We also maintain a close working relationship with World Animal Protection, as they provide guidance that informs how we implement our Animal Welfare Policy. As they are at the forefront of animal welfare worldwide, we often reach out for their advice on certain products or organizations.
The transition has taken place over a couple of years. Now, as we’re building new products and new experiences, our Animal Welfare Policy is always top of mind.
Q: Why was this move important to G Adventures?
A: We already make sure that we’re doing the right thing in terms of the communities we visit, and giving back to those communities while promoting sustainable travel, and we wanted to continue to have a positive impact on the environment and wildlife within it.
Q: For some, animal interactions are a big reason to travel to certain regions. How do we explain that, sometimes, these interactions aren’t good for the animals?
A: As a traveller — and even for myself — until you understand the impact of it, you don’t realize what you’re doing.
With our CEOs (tour leaders), some of whom have grown up in regions where these animal interactions are normal, there has been the need for some education. Now, when you hear the CEOs speaking with their travellers, there is an initial sense that travelers think they want to have these experiences with animals. Now we’re saying, actually, we’re not going to do it, and then also explaining why it’s harmful. The response from travellers is largely, “we had no idea.”
Q: Part of our welfare policy includes souvenirs. Can you explain how this relates to animal welfare?
A: It’s about not associating with sellers of animal byproducts. For instance, on our Peru riverboat trip, we visit several local communities, and they sell handicrafts at every single one. One of the communities used to make crafts from caiman skin. Our guides educated them on the negative impact that caiman hunting can have and that we do not want to promote it as a company. The community has begun selling alternatives to our travellers, which are beautiful!
Q: Can you tell me about an experience on one of our tours that allowed you to see animals in a way that adhered to our Animal Welfare Policy?
A: I’ve done one of our Jane Goodall Collection trips to Uganda. We saw the biggest family of gorillas that’s on the Ugandian side, which was 26 gorillas. There, it’s completely OK to go into a natural habitat, as long as you’re not disturbing them: you can take photos from a distance, and the second that they’re anxious or uncomfortable, you’re out of there.
When I went, we hiked for about two and a half hours. On the trip, you have two guides and two locators, who locate the gorilla family for you, then radio your guides. They take you along the trail as far as possible and then you go into the jungle because, obviously, the gorillas aren’t just sitting on the path.
The family we saw had 26 gorillas, and there were also four babies. They were throwing things at us from the trees — being little naughty kids! It was a beautiful experience. We were there for a few hours, just sitting there at a distance, watching them.
Q: How does seeing these animals in the wild allow our passengers to understand the importance of our Animal Welfare Policy?
A: Most of our animal inclusions allow you to see animals, but from an appropriate distance. Our tour leaders are so passionate about the wildlife, and they educate travellers about what’s appropriate, and why that’s important, and that’s what we hope travellers take home with them.
Our Jane Goodall Collection of trips is personally endorsed by famed conservationalist Dr. Jane Goodall. Learn more about those trips here.