Primates in Proximity: The Lives of Monkeys in Costa Rican Sanctuary Tourism

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Speiran, Siobhan I.
Wildlife tourism , Primate welfare , Primate conservation , Costa Rica , Wildlife sanctuary
The stakes for animals in the wildlife tourism industry have never been higher; the expansive, profitable market serves those who desire closeness to nature while leading to a mass of multispecies suffering. This thesis adds to growing scholarship about the lives of animals in the tourism industry, aiming to highlight animal interests, welfare, and sanctuaries as potential sustainable tourism sites through a case study of the lives of monkeys in Costa Rican wildlife sanctuaries. First, it applies an animal geography lens to wildlife tourism, highlighting animal stakeholders, ethics of care, and best practices (Ch. 3). Second, it explores the labour-based roles, circumstances and experiences of monkeys in wildlife sanctuaries (Ch. 4). Third, it assesses the extent to which wildlife sanctuaries satisfy 'sustainability' criteria in terms of animal welfare and conservation outcomes (Ch. 5). Theoretically, this thesis ‘stays with the trouble’ of wildlife tourism– exploring the messiness– and finding places to ‘bring animals in.’ Methodologically, I designed and implemented a non-invasive, field-based Conservation Welfare Assessment Framework to evaluate the impact of sanctuary attractions on animal welfare and conservation outcomes for involved species. From June to September 2019, I visited eight sanctuaries around Costa Rica, with 3-6 weeks spent at three focal sites where I employed mixed socio-ecological methods. The results demonstrate that each focal site, varyingly but positively, contributes to animal welfare and the conservation of monkeys– which is essential to sustainable wildlife tourism. Document review from sanctuaries across four regions revealed that electrocution from uninsulated wiring and electrical transformers accounts for around a quarter of primate rescues. Practically, I seek to improve the lives of monkeys in my research context through knowledge mobilization, as well as learn from and with sanctuaries in Costa Rica as collaborators to develop best practices and future research. Though more empirical research is needed, this thesis posits that wildlife sanctuary attractions– when buttressed by ethics of care, compassion, and a commitment to sustainability and justice for animals –have the potential to offer a kinder form of wildlife tourism.
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