Daniel Turner is an environmental biologist who has been working for the advancement of animal welfare knowledge and protection for over 20 years. During that time, he has created and led initiatives that have influenced international policy, national legislation and activities by international travel industry.
From 2000 to 2017 he worked for the international wildlife protection NGO, Born Free Foundation, where he established its department dedicated to animal welfare in tourism. Taking a more pragmatic approach, Daniel developed partnerships with travel businesses and their trade associations to create capacity-building programmes and guidance, which included the Travelife Animal Attractions Handbook (2008) and ABTA’s Animal Welfare Guidelines (2013). In 2018, Daniel co-founded ANIMONDIAL, a specialist consultancy that provides impartial advice and practical guidance to travel businesses seeking to better manage their impact on animals and the natural environment. Working in partnership with likeminded individuals and organizations, Daniel hopes to use combined knowledge and expertise to advance an understanding in, and an application of, animal welfare science in tourism.
Travel Research Online (TRO): Hi, Daniel. How are you today?
Daniel Turner (DT): I am very well, thank you.
TRO: You’ve been advocating for better care of animals for almost 20 years now, which led to your work engaging the tourism industry. What originally drew you to this goal as a profession and passion?
DT: I have always wanted to work with, or for animals, and it was very much a childhood obsession! However, I suppose it was my post-grad experiences in India, investigating the illegal wildlife trade; and in Peru, where I established an environmental education NGO (“Amigos Del Monte”), which both taught me to ‘think outside the box’, that really ignited my passion to make a meaningful difference in everything that I do. Establishing ANIMONDIAL in 2018, with a former colleague, I hope to work with the travel industry to better manage tourism’s impact on animals and the natural environment.
TRO: There seems to be increasing talk regarding overtourism in places that have become popular travel destinations. Among the concerns are the ecological repercussions of it. Do you think this is directly linked in certain circumstances?
DT: Absolutely, overtourism is definitely having a detrimental impact on the natural world. Whilst news reports focus on how our actions are causing climatic change and further depleting the limited natural resources, we tend to forget that other animals also depend on these resources. With more tourists than ever choosing to view indigenous wildlife whilst on vacation, we need to consider, and better manage, both the short and longer-term negative impact. Much of my work over the years has focused on the development of comprehensive guidance to support the travel industry to view wildlife responsibly. Through a set of simple rules, wildlife can be viewed with minimal impact and still ensure tourists an unforgettable experience. Failing to implement these controls, animal behavior is likely to change; and the animals we love to see will vanish. ANIMONDIAL has various services to help travel businesses review their practices, mitigate risk, and ensure their suppliers adopt responsible and sustainable guidelines that protect wildlife.
TRO: What are your favorite destinations around the world to kick back and enjoy life?
DT: What a difficult question! There are so many places to list, as I love travel, but those that immediately spring to mind are: the villages of Uttaranchal (India) in the foothills of the Himalayas – a step back in time and close to nature; a secluded beach in Samos (Greece); the rich rainforests of Tambopata (Peru); and of course, my seaside hometown of Brighton (England).
TRO: Capacity-building programs help regulate the amount of tourism in relation to what the local culture and infrastructure can handle. What are the main statistics you look for when helping companies devise the best way to form these programs?
DT: ANIMONDIAL does not offer broad statistics in relation to overtourism, but we do advise travel companies about their impacts on in-destination captive animals, wildlife and natural habitats. This provides the means for travel businesses to make the informed decisions relevant to their business objectives and in-destination operations.
We do, however, use stats on public opinion (such as 71% of travelers are more likely to buy a vacation from a travel company that cares for animals, COMRes 2017), which help to substantiate the business case for animal welfare protection. ANIMONDIAL also works with in-destination non-profit organizations (NGOs), which provide first-hand knowledge on the impacts of overtourism and other environment pressures. So, we are a resource of relevant information, as well as providing travel businesses a valuable service.
TRO: There are many facets to environmental conservation; for instance, assisting endangered (or soon to be) animals. What facets are your primary concern when advising companies about the impact tourism and travel can have on the animal kingdom?
DT: ANIMONDIAL focuses on all matters that concern animals in a tourism context. This includes responsible wildlife-viewing practices, the trade in wildlife and their parts/products, issues involving animals in a captive environment [like zoos, aquaria and sanctuaries], and domestic animals involved in a working capacity [such as horses, donkeys and camels]. Travel businesses tend to offer vacations involving some, if not all of these kinds of activity-types, and each have their challenges! ANIMONDIAL assists travel businesses to navigate the animal tourism minefield and to make informed decisions that are right for their business.
TRO: What would you say are the best ways that tour operators and travel agents can help decrease the impact on animals and nature?
DT: I recommend travel businesses implement five steps to better manage their impact on animals. These include: 1. A review of all animal-based product and tours to ensure high risk activity is identified; 2. Establish procurement criteria, to ensure all future products are in alignment with animal welfare safeguards and company policy; 3. Create an animal welfare policy and implementation strategy; 4. Develop communications support to ease delivery; 5. Audit suppliers against animal welfare criteria for peace of mind. I have produced a step-by-step guide for these actions, you can register for your Animal Welfare in Tourism Starter Kit [including a free consultation] at http://animondial.com/
TRO: You are meeting an important need in the travel industry. Do you see the amount of companies like ANIMONDIAL increasing as the need becomes greater to confront what ‘responsible tourism’ means to the industry as a whole?
DT: Having identified the niche in the market and established ANIMONDIAL, my colleague Helen and I regularly review our services and outputs to ensure they remain as supportive as possible for tourism need. We are aware that ‘animal welfare’ is increasingly becoming a key focus for the tourism industry, and although we are ahead of the curve, we acknowledge that companies like Audley Travel, Collette Travel, DER Touristik Group, Rickshaw Travel and STA Travel, are already working with us. Crucially, ANIMONDIAL takes a more impartial approach and is able to assist your readers with all of their animal welfare and species protection needs!
TRO: Does ANIMONDIAL have any big news or upcoming projects that you’d like to share?
DT: One of ANIMONDIAL’s objectives is to identify and deliver solutions to the recurring issues that challenge the travel industry today. Examples include the 3500+ cetaceans (dolphins, whales and porpoises) in captivity for entertainment purposes, or the estimated 6000 elephants in captive facilities in Southeast Asia involved in tourist interactions. Both activities had been established to attract tourism, but now due to changing public opinion, these attractions are falling out of favor. Evidenced by many travel companies ceasing to sell these activities. The ultimate question is what happens to the animals? ANIMONDIAL is collaborating with travel companies, and other stakeholders, to deliver viable solutions that protect the animals, engage the suppliers and offer tour operators modified products that prioritize animal welfare. For more information, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
TRO: Daniel, thank you very much for your time. We wish you the best on helping solve a major issue in the travel industry.
DT: Thank you very much for having me. If any of your readers need guidance on how to safeguard animal welfare through tourism, please do not hesitate to get in touch!
For more information about ANIMONDIAL, please visit http://animondial.com/