Leave No Trace and your Tourism and Hospitality Business - Respect Farm Animals & WildlifeApr 06, 2022
With 135, 037 farms operating in Ireland and approximately 31 million farm animals roaming our land, it goes without saying that Ireland has a strong agricultural presence, one that excites many visitors who do not have the opportunity to see such things at home. The National Biodiversity Data Centre has also recorded 16,868 different wildlife species here in Ireland. Unfortunately, over 20% of our wildlife species are currently endangered in becoming extinct with increasingly more being added to a National Park and Wildlife Service ‘red list’. As more people visit the outdoors and protected sites, the more vulnerable wildlife becomes. This too can be said about farm visits. Livelihoods of farming families depend on the wellbeing of farm animals. Sheep, for example, are feeble creatures and are scared easily, leading to health problems. As tourism businesses and destinations we must inform our visitor of the Leave No Trace Principles and ensure that they respect all farm animals and wildlife while visiting.
As mentioned in my previous blog, cycling and walking have become more and more popular as ways to travel and visit a destination. However, while your visitor is out and about, it is important they know where to roam and what to do to ensure minimal impact has been made and that all farm animals and wildlife are being respected.
What this means for your tourism and hospitality business?
Principle 1, planning and preparing ahead, can help your visitor know how to act responsibly in the outdoors. Prior to venturing out, you can inform your visitor on certain actions they can take, such as the ones below:
- Dog-friendly hospitality businesses and accommodations are becoming more and more popular as we see a rise in dog owners across Ireland. One important thing to note for your dog-loving visitor is to ensure their dog is on the leash. We have seen news stories of tragic events in the mountains as sheep have been terrified by dogs, causing fatalities and farm animals being confused and led astray. It is important we nurture and build good relationships between outdoor recreational users and farmers and landowners. The majority of Irish land is private, and it is the landowner who generously gives us the right to roam, they can easily take that away unless we act responsibly on their land.
- As humans we are a generous group and love feeding animals we find along our path. However, most of the food we have as leftovers, is food that was initially meant for us to consume. So, unless we come prepared and are knowledgeable in the nutrition of animals, we should not share our food, as it may not always agree with an animal's digestive system. Remind your visitor not to feed animals as it can be harmful to their health, alter their eating habits and behaviours and can expose them to other predators.
- Remind your visitor to observe from a distance. Maybe you could offer them the opportunity to borrow or rent binoculars for bird watching? Remind them that taking a photograph from a distance, without a flash if possible, will have a better impact on the animal and prevent it from being startled. This is particularly important during breeding and nesting seasons. It is also for your visitor’s safety as we do not know how some animals will react and their past encounters with people.
- To reiterate the point above about not feeding farm or wild animals, you could remind your visitor of Principle 6: Dispose of Waste Properly, which I will discuss in a later blog. Ensure that your visitor does not leave a trail that animals can follow and lunch on. You could offer them a bag that they can use to pack in what they brought outdoors with them, if they do not have one already.
Aside from informing your visitor, which is a very important and proactive way of promoting responsible outdoor ethics, there are also other actions your business can take to respect farm animals and wildlife and actively help them flourish. Here are a few ideas that might inspire you:
- You can protect your local biodiversity by surveying your building for bats before making any renovations. In Ireland, there are 9 species of bats, 2 of which are rare to Europe, highlighting the importance of their protection.
- You can protect your local biodiversity by creating more green spaces and pollinator-friendly areas. You can plant more trees on your land and create habitats and safe places for the local wildlife.
- You can protect your local biodiversity by installing bird boxes, bug hotels and bat boxes where wildlife can safely take shelter when they need to.
What this means for your tourist destination?
As a destination that actively promotes the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace, here are a few ways you can inform your visitor on respecting farm animals and wildlife:
- Install infographics and signs to remind visitors to keep their dog on the leash and the importance of this action.
- Share information on the local wildlife and include important details such as breeding times. This will highlight the importance of animals not being disturbed. Include any details on how these species and animals help us as a society. For example, did you know that pollinators provide €53 million to the Irish economy every year?
- Remind your visitor through signage about the importance of not feeding animals and to view and take photos of them from a distance so as not to startle them.
There are also other ways you can help the local wildlife.
- When lighting an area, ensure that you use it sensitively so as not to disturb and confuse animals. Sensor lighting is one way to ensure lighting usage is controlled and not excessive. It also is a way in which consumption is controlled, which in the end saves money. Lighting can impact on bats roosting sites, commuting routes and areas where they feed, so it is important to monitor and control usage.
- Protect your local biodiversity by ensuring grasses are seldomly cut but grown for wildlife habitats, along with the growth of hedgerows. Create more green, pollinator-friendly spaces. Work with the tidy towns and other such community groups to actively protect the local biodiversity.
- When organising events in your destination, be aware of the species around the event location. Other points to think about is the human carrying capacity, the weather and the impact weather can have, be it good or bad. Organising an event is also a fantastic way to raise awareness of the rich biodiversity of the area, why and how we should protect it and the threat of the biodiversity crisis. Highlight the work your event is doing to protect the local wildlife, this may inspire others to take some simple measures and do the same.
The 7 Principles of Leave No Trace is a guide you can use to make minimal impact on our cultural and physical environment. You as a tourism/hospitality business or tourist destination have the capacity to make great change through education dn spreading the message of Leave No Trace. This article has highlighted the third principle of Leave No Trace, ‘Respect Farm Animals and Wildlife’. For more information on this principle, you can visit the official Leave No Trace website here.
Aoibheann is an accredited Leave No Trace trainer and delivers Awareness Courses as part of destination development training programmes. You can learn more about previous destination development training programmes here.
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