Wildlife and the environment

Young Orang-utan, Indonesia. © Anup Shah/Getty Images

We know lots of people are worried about the negative impact tourism has on the environment and local cultures - but here are some practical tips on how you can be a responsible tourist.

There’s information about carbon offsetting to minimise the impact of air travel, information on conserving natural resources.

And tips on finding ethical tour operators, shopping responsibly and helping to protect endangered species.

Before you go

  • ask your tour operator when you book your holiday where your money is going - staying in locally owned accommodation benefits local families
  • when you’ve finished with your holiday brochures pass them on to a friend or recycle them
  • ask to see your tour operator’s sustainable tourism policy
  • ask whether your hotel operates sustainably
  • see if you can you book excursions that contribute to the local economy and protect indigenous cultures and wildlife
  • recycle packaging from new clothes and toiletries before you go - waste disposal is a major expense in poorer countries
  • if you are travelling to an impoverished country think about taking gifts which will benefit the local community such as stationery for a school.

Air travel and carbon offsetting

The amount of carbon burnt fuelling your flight will do more damage to the environment than any other aspect of your travels.

Organisations like Climate Care and Carbon Neutral can help you offset your carbon emissions by investing in projects that prevent or remove an equivalent amount from the atmosphere.

If you are only making a relatively short journey consider other methods of transport such as trains, ferries or coaches.

Shop responsibly

  • help the local economy by buying local produce - shop at markets or local grocers and buy local crafts and products
  • haggling can be fun but don’t be obsessed with getting the lowest price - remember how wealthy you are compared to local people in some countries
  • products made from endangered species, hardwoods or shells are often illegal-you could face prosecution or a fine if you try to bring them back into the UK

For more information on wildlife souvenirs and a list of banned products see the UK CITES Souvenir Alert website.

Use natural resources sparingly

  • in many destinations natural resources such as water, wood and fuel are precious—local people may not have enough for their own needs
  • conserve resources in your hotel, lodge or camp by turning off (or down) heating, air conditioning, lights and the TV when not required
  • let staff know if you are happy to re-use towels and bed linen rather than having them replaced daily
  • use public transport, hire a bike or walk where possible—you’ll meet local people and get to know the place better
  • don’t drop litter - use biodegradable products, re-use bottles, plastic bags and other containers and take used batteries home with you

Preserve the environment and wildlife

  • help preserve the natural environment for others to enjoy - don’t pick flowers and plants or collect pebbles and seashells
  • coral is extremely fragile and takes decades to grow - don’t step on or remove any coral when swimming or diving
  • complain to your holiday rep if wildlife or habitats are disturbed on organised excursions
  • And don’t support activities which exploit wild animals - swimming with dolphins, watching dancing bear performances and having your photo taken with lion and tiger cubs, monkeys or snakes can condone and encourage animal cruelty

For more information on animal exploitation and to report a concern, visit the Born Free Foundation’s Traveller Alert pages

Our work

Read about the FCO's work in Bourneo in our case study, Protecting Asia's rainforest

Useful Links

Born Free Foundation - Traveller Alert -advice on avoiding supporting animal cruelty and exploitation whilst abroad.

Climate Care - information about carbon offsetting

Carbon Neutral - information about carbon offsetting

UK CITES Souvenir Alert! - more information about wildlife souvenirs, including a list of banned products.

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