Aggressive Tourism

A group of safari vehicles packed closely together as passengers look out windows and open roofs at animals grazing on a yellow plain.

About 60 vehicles waited near the Mara River in Kenya as wildebeests and zebras gathered in August to cross the waterway as part of their migration on the Serengeti Plain. Simon Espley

We have Maria Cramer and Costas Christ to thank for this reminder about our responsibilities as producers and consumers of travel experiences:

A video showing dozens of vehicles moving in on a pair of big cats in a Kenyan game reserve highlights how “aggressive tourism” can put endangered animals at even greater risk.

The video surfaced online around October. Filmed from a distance, it shows an antelope grazing on the African plain. Suddenly, two cheetahs race toward it and the antelope takes off, running toward the camera. But the cats are too fast. They converge on it and bring it down. They begin to feed.

Almost at that exact moment, a second drama unfolds: The safari vehicles that have been parked in the background begin to move. One dark-colored 4×4 hits the gas and begins driving closer to the animals. Then vehicle after vehicle is on the move — green, brown white, in various states of repair. You can hear the voices of the guides within yelling at one another. Some start to honk their horns. The vehicles form a circle, jockeying for position as their passengers hold up cellphones to record the cheetahs and their meal.

A woman’s voice can be heard in the background. “Are they stupid?” she asks.

The video was filmed in the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, home to many of the Big Five animals (lionsleopards, elephantsbuffalo and rhinoceroses) that safari participants tick off their lists. The identity of the video’s creator remains unknown, as does the date it was shot.

It was originally shared by a Twitter account using the name @DrumChronicles and has been viewed more than 175,000 times since it appeared. Guides and conservationists who have seen it said the video underscored a problem many of them have observed since the Kenyan government began lifting most pandemic-related travel restrictions: safari vehicles packed with cellphone-wielding tourists led by guides who are willing to get too close to the animals.

Read the whole article here.

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