Most of us love nature and find going back to lush forests and habitats relatively untouched by man a way out of the noise of our daily lives. So while Instagrams may be filled with pictures of mountains, forests and beaches and telling us that Wanderlust is the new ‘in-thing’, we need to keep in mind that these natural habitats are also home to a variety of other organisms. And just like we would not like it if an outsider were to create a ruckus in our homes, we too should learn how to be good guests while in the forest.
The first question we need to ask is does the forest really want us?
It is a common error to be oblivious to the fact that forest tourism can be damaging to natural ecosystems. This error stems from the fact that we continue to behave like urbanites while being in a jungle, a place that is by no means our own city. We have prepared a list of some of the common error we tend to make while in the forest so that the next time you visit one you can be a better behaved guest.
Littering tops this list with Ease. Somehow, even after all our education and social media rants most tourists blatantly litter forests, beaches and even remote cliffs sides, places which are relatively inaccessible and hence impossible to clean.
The biggest problem when it comes to plastic litter is that it usually gets consumed by animals and ends up choking them to death. If the trash consists of processed food, it not only affects the nutrient content of the forest soil but also is harmful to the animals and birds that eat it. Animals don’t litter, be like animals.
City life has made us adapt to consider loud music to be ‘fun’. But places that don’t need loud noises are (Literally every single place but let’s stick to the topic) natural environments. Animals and birds have far more sensitive ears than us. Even talking out aloud can disrupt animal communication causing us to scare them and even can push them to alter their natural behaviour. All of this can lead to making them more susceptible to predation or even spook their prey, leaving predators hungry.
3. Disturbing Foliage:
This might be one of the most ironical behaviours shown by tourists, most of us talk about better roads but many of us fail to stay on the paths in the forest and tread in grassy patches.
This behaviour not only destroys microhabitats but can be dangerous as people are more susceptible to bites by insects and snakes. Those who wear open footwear like sandals or slippers that keep the feet exposed while walking, leave themselves open to a variety of threats.
4. Feeding Animals:
Feeding wild animals is a serious issue and separates the so-called ‘animal lovers’ from the wildlife enthusiast. Any person with a basic understanding of ecology will understand that the whole ecosystem is a set of intricate balances and by providing food to a wild animal, we are disrupting this balance. Moreover, food that may be nutritious to our digestive system can be toxic to other species. Feeding animals like monkeys over time have caused attacks on tourists when they refuse to give them food.
Off-roading and speeding on empty forest roads may seem fun to us but to the inhabitants of a forest, it can be a death trap. The number of cases of wildlife roadkill has increased steadily over the last couple of years and will continue to do so if we are not willing to make a change. While driving in forests it is necessary that you watch out for animals crossing the road and be kind enough to let them pass without causing unnecessary harm. We need to remember, they aren’t crossing a road, they are walking in the forest, the road is crossing the forest.
This is a perfect example of how a small act of carelessness can have massive consequences. A burning cigarette butt or an unattended bonfire can lead to a forest fire and have disastrous effects on wildlife, human life and economy (Literally burning a hole in our pocket). These fires can spread across thousands of hectares of forested land, devouring every animal, plant, bird and human in its way. It all can start with a cigarette butt less than 5 cms in length.
The list of questionable things humans do in forests is unending even things like excess lighting at campsites, playing bird calls to attract birds, overcrowding treks have its own impacts on forests and its inhabitants. The least we can do is to be aware of the damage we are causing and do our bit to reduce our impact.