The lives of animals in Costa Rican wildlife rescue centres and barriers to research

Authors: Siobhan Speiran*,
Topics: Tourism Geography, Animal Geographies, Latin America
Keywords: Tourism, Ecotourism, Sanctuaries, Costa Rica, Animal Welfare, Conservation
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: 8228, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Is wildlife ecotourism good for animals? Ecotourism is one of the fastest growing sectors of the tourism industry, in part due to mounting public concern over the welfare of animals in traditional wildlife tourism. While it has transformative potential for the conservation of species (Mossaz, et al., 2015), ecosystems, and local communities (Campbell, 2007; Honey, 1999; Mbaiwa, 2018), its ability to deliver on this triumvirate is not fully understood (Das & Chatterjee, 2015; D’Cruze et al., 2017;). In the Costa Rican context, an emerging popular ecotourism attraction are wildlife rescue centres. After conducting preliminary site visits at three rescue centres in the north, central, and coastal regions I have uncovered a host of exciting research avenues– and potential barriers– to research. In this paper I will present: (1) what these rescue centres do as sites of rehabilitation, tourism, and education; (2) how animals end up in rescue centres; (3) the relationship between rescue centres and with governmental agencies; (4) preliminary appraisals of tourist/volunteer attitudes to animal encounters in rescue centres; (5) barriers to meeting good animal welfare and conservation outcomes in centres; and finally (6) three small, animal-focused case studies at each centre. I point to the high turnover of staff and ‘voluntourists’, the seemingly-strained relationship with other centres and governmental bodies, the unclear management structure, and overall social-political affairs of rescue centres as not only a potential barrier to providing good animal care, but also to conducting research at such locations.

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