How to Save Endangered Animals While on Vacation

Many species of animals are endangered, whether due to loss of habitat, climate change or illegal hunting. For a species to wind up on the endangered list, it must be in grave danger of its extinction in a large part of its range and habitat. Private citizens or conservation groups petition for the animal's welfare and the agencies involved review the information and decide if the animal warrants listing as endangered. The problem may seem too big for any one person to tackle, but there are some significant ways you can make a difference whether you are on vacation or at home.


Difficulty: Easy

Step 1
"Voluntour" for your next vacation. Many organizations will match willing vacationers with scientists and conservation programs that need a hand. The trip fee typically covers room and board but not travel to the program site. Activities might include tracking animals, counting prey species, radiotelemetry monitoring of animals fitted with radio collars or preventing poaching of sea turtle eggs.
Step 2
Don't buy contraband. That leopard skin sure is beautiful--but don't buy it. Trade in many animals or their parts is illegal, and most such products cannot be brought legally into the United States.
Step 3
Shop and stay local. A primary principle of ecotourism is that when locals benefit from tourists who come to see wildlife, they are motivated to preserve the animals and their habitat. Whenever possible, buy directly from the artisan or in a locally owned shop. Instead of staying in a hotel owned by a multinational corporation, opt for a smaller, locally owned hostel, or guest house. This is a great way to meet interesting locals and get a feel for the culture too.
Step 4
Eat green. Local cuisine in some areas may feature meat of endangered animals, like sea turtles. As a tourist, you generally can't know whether this is farmed or illegally harvested, so it's best to avoid it. Finning---the cruel practice of removing a shark's fins and leaving the animal to drown---is driven by desire for shark fin soup, a costly delicacy you should eschew.
Step 5
Donate to groups working to save endangered species and their habitat. Some reputable organizations include Panthera, WildAid, World Wildlife Fund and Oceana.
Step 6
Travel green. Every little bit you can do to reduce your personal ecological footprint benefits the planet as a whole, including endangered animals. Buy carbon offsets for your air travel, and choose airlines and destinations that are working on reducing their own impact on the earth.

Article Written By Peggy Hansen

Peggy Hansen holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from UC San Diego, Doctor of Medicine from UCLA, and completed postgraduate training at Stanford, Duke and Harvard. An award-winning writer and photographer, her work has been featured in Catnip, Herbalgram, Porter Gulch Review, and many online pieces. She's also a commentator for KQED-FM

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