Pandas to Penguins: Ethical Encounters with Animals at Risk

Pandas to Penguins: Ethical Encounters with Animals at Risk

Pandas to Penguins: Ethical Encounters with Animals at Risk

Pandas to Penguins: Ethical Encounters with Animals at Risk


Perhaps nothing about nature calls to us as deeply as wild animals. To see an enormous whale leaping out of the water, the eerily human eyes of a gorilla, or the comical waddle of a penguin; to hear the ethereal howl of a wolf or majestic roar of a lion--these experiences change us. Around the world, animal populations are threatened by loss of habitat, pollution, climate change, overhunting, and poaching--and yet wildlife-based tourism is growing rapidly and makes up as much as forty percent of the worldwide tourism industry today.

In Pandas to Penguins, nature journalist Melissa Gaskill profiles twenty-five species and one endangered ecosystem, highlighting local ecofriendly travel outfitters operating in the area for those seeking out their own enriching personal experience with wildlife. She provides basic information about each animal's behavior and biology, descriptions of the threats they face, and maps, photographs, and first-person accounts of wildlife watching.

Each species meets three basic criteria: 1) some level of risk to its survival, 2) a reasonably accessible habitat where travelers have a chance to view the animal in the wild in its natural setting, and 3) responsible tourism that directly benefits the animal or its habitat. More than a wildlife bucket list or an exhortation to "see them before they're gone," this guide is intended to identify wildlife experiences that can be life changing for people as well as animals. Extinction is tragic but not inevitable. We can all do something to make a difference, and Pandas to Penguins is an important resource for adventurers and armchair travelers alike.


The condition of wildlife and habitats around the world changes at an ever- increasing pace. in October 2016, the World Wildlife Fund’s “Living Planet Index” stated that global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles declined by 58 percent between 1970 and 2012. If current trends continue, the report predicts that decline could reach two- thirds by 2020. According to the National Wildlife Federation, more than 8,000 species in the United States alone face uncertain futures.

The animals featured in this book remain in suffi cient numbers, at least in isolated areas, to off er at least a chance of seeing them on the trips covered here. That can all change, though, from the time of this writing or in the months following publication of this book. in fact, my original list of animals included black rhinos, but aft er speaking with several experts and tour guides, I decided that, before this book reached readers’ hands, black rhino numbers would fall so low that seeing them would be nearly impossible—or they may even become extinct. Some of the animals included here teeter on the brink and could become harder and harder to see, or disappear entirely.

Governments, economic situations, and local situations also change. While the information provided is as accurate as possible, it may not remain so over time. Changes in local conditions, continued destruction of habitat, decay of infrastructure, or political turmoil all can quickly reduce animal populations. These factors also may necessitate changes to itineraries or make it no longer possible to visit certain destinations. Responsible tour outfitters do their best to keep up with situations in . . .

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