Nothing beats seeing directly animals in the wild.
Whether it’s in a National Park near you or on a safari tour on the other side of the world, this is a must do before you die: experience wildlife first hand.
Experiencing the beauty and majesty of wildlife first hand, right in front of you, this just makes your heart skip a beat.
I have never experience a stronger “WOW: this is life!” feeling than when I was submerged in Nature, observing a wild animal.
For me nothing beats this feeling.
You don’t impose on the animal, it chooses to stay in front of you for a second or a minute, or even better: if you've been very clever with a silent approach, or if you've found yourself a good hide, you can have the best of the best experience: observe an animal’s normal behaviour, with no fear and no disturbance.
I am quite happy to observe any wild animal I can find, whether it is a caterpillar, a frog, a bird, sometimes a small or medium mammal.
Privet Hawk Moth
To see the wild animals that live their lives close to you, nothing is better than a National Park, a Nature Reserve or even a State Forest: ANY WILD PLACE.
Actually, in some place you can see amazing wild animals that can even put up with us and are living right in the middle of cities! Many private gardens and city parks will host some kind of wildlife, so even in the city you are not without possibilities.
Keep your eyes open for the small and marvelous wildlife: you will be amazed at how beautiful small animals are. Beetles, butterflies, grasshoppers, dragonflies, cicadas, spiders, centipedes, pseudoscorpions: they are just magnificent wild animals, as photographer Nick Monaghan from Life Unseen has known for a long time. Check out his site for inspiration...
Green fiddler beetle
Also don't forget all the superb wildlife you can spot from a boat or a canoe! Go on the sea, rivers, lakes and mangroves to make some amazing encounters!
And finally one of my favourite: go snorkeling!
Make sure you vary the types of environment you visit: each different habitat support its own special mix of wild animals. Woodland, heath, swamp (often forgotten but a wildlife heaven! Birds love it!), sea side...
Taking pictures of the beautiful Nature is an excellent way to keep your memories alive.
One of the most important tip you will learn is to be very patient with animals to get the picture you're dreaming of.
For some however, little garden creatures or even the beautiful local National Park is not always enough...
Are you hearing the call of the large, beautiful African mammals?
Do you have to see them for real?
Wild Animal Safaris are probably the best family holidays you can dream of as a kid (and also as an adult!). You can really tailor your wildlife safari to your favourite animal: whether it's tiger, gorilla, rhino...
The luckiest of us all can travel all the way to Africa for
an unforgettable vacation, tracking large charismatic African animals through the savannah
for instance. Find out where to go for the best African Animal Safaris.
However, some might not be able to afford such exceptional wild animal vacations.
If you still want to see majestic wildlife from all around the world, but close to home: you might consider going to a zoo.
I have been very much disturbed by zoos for a long time. I didn’t want to go to them at all, because of bad experiences of finding beautiful creatures bored to death in cages too small.
Now I must admit I can support some sides of zoos.
First, there are the zoos that are in fact sanctuaries for injured or orphan wildlife.
Those places are purely and simply awesome, they do an amazing job rehabilitating hurt animals. Wildlife sanctuaries I would visit as often as I could, because your entry fee helps directly wildlife.
In some sanctuaries, some animals can come and go as they wish, but come very often because there is plenty of food in the sanctuary. This allows a very close encounter with wildlife! This is how I got to pat this delightful little kangaroo...
Pretty kangaroo in a wildlife sanctuary
For example, at The Monkey Sanctuary in Cornwall, you can see wild species of monkeys such as capuchin and woolly monkeys. These animals have been rescued from the pet trade.
By visiting the sanctuary, you directly support:
To sum up, you are supporting the good guys!
There are also some zoos that have a wild animal hospital attached. They function together, the zoo creating money to run the hospital.
That means many wild animals will still benefit from your entry.
Another positive side of zoos is that many zoos now try to be involved in wildlife research. They often sponsor research on wild animals outside the zoo, in their natural environment. And they also built strong research programs inside the zoo, to learn more about the wild animals that they have.
Finally, many zoos now are aware of the needs of their wild animals.
The designs of the zoo enclosures are bigger and better (sometimes you, the human, is in a cage / car and the animals are around you with lots of room). Some zoos have enrichment programs (to entertain the animals) and train the zoo animals.
Trained zoo animals are better off because:
Then there are the Sea Worlds and other attraction parks featuring dolphins and other sea mammals.
I must say that still gives me more troubles.
I just have been very shocked, over and over again, by stories of some very unhappy sea mammals in such parks.
The case of captive dolphins has been well studied. Here are a few facts:
The capture is stressful and often harmful, and I am against any wild animal at all (not only dolphins) to be taken from the wild only for the pleasure of humans. They are not meant to be in captivity and I don't believe they can adapt to captivity. (The only way an animal should be in a zoo is if it was born in a zoo).
It's even more so cruel because dolphins "see" a lot through their sonar, which bounces back in the small pool (it's suppose to be used in oceans!).
I heard that be compared to, for humans, being held in a cage with mirrors all over and our own image bouncing endlessly back at us. That would make me mad!
India has actually recently banned any use of dolphins in such shows and for any commercial or private entertainment, declaring dolphins are "non-human persons". This comes just after scientists have discovered that dolphins have signature whistles they use to call each others: in other terms, dolphins have names.
"Blackfish" by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, a documentary on captive killer whales
Another well studied case of higher mortality in captivity and generally unhappy sea mammals is the killer whale (orcas).
There is now a movie about it: "Blackfish" by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, and you can sea some arguments of the debate, including the opinion of a biologist that has worked with wild orcas for 20 years, in this article on Seaworld and captive orcas.
Many, including this biologist, strongly oppose captivity of orcas on the basis that:
Death at SeaWorld by David Kirby
If you want more information about captive Orcas, you can also read the book from David Kirby: Death at SeaWorld: Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity.
Until I find research proving otherwise, I will personally never buy a ticket for one of these Sea World type shows.
A happy free dolphin.
Aquariums I found just stunning, but of course wild animals there too are held in captivity.
Again there is the fact that not many of us have the ability to dive in the Great Barrier Reef or another amazing wild places where you can see all these colourful fish...
Also, many aquariums get their fish from the wild, with most fish dying even before reaching the aquariums...
What I do like about all these places (zoo, aquarium), is that they bring an amazing part of nature (usually, the most majestic, appealing or cute animals) right to the doorstep of everyone of us.
And obviously, many of us might never be able to afford a wild animal vacation or a safari.
I think making it possible for many people to experience the beauty of wildlife might help understand the importance of, and gain support for, conservation.
You only want to preserve what you know and like.
So maybe this is an important mission that zoos can provide, but to be entirely honest, a David Attenborough documentary works better for me. And most people that can afford a visit to the zoo can afford a DVD!
This young artist has made his/her opinion on Zoos.
Credits: Anonymous Photos by Art Revolution
Also, zoos should never be considered as preserving wild animals themselves (a kind of Noah's Ark). Especially if by preserving wild animals in zoos, some people think we don’t need to preserve them in their natural environment!
This is a terrible argument.
It doesn’t work anyway:
I will leave it to you to decide whether you like zoos or not, and whether you want to visit them or not (remember the great wildlife sanctuary alternative!).
You can’t beat the real stuff: go see real wild animals firsthand! The best is to experience wildlife in the wild, outdoors, in their natural environment.
Sanctuaries are the best alternative to a walk in the wilderness,because the animals there are rescued and rehabilitated - and hopefully released into the wild when possible.
As a last resort, aquariums and zoos might also attract you.