Department of Anthropology, Indiana University, Bloomington
Friday Afternoon, 301D
The relative contribution of tourists to the spread of pathogens to wildlife is unknown, but the number of tourists visiting wildlife sanctuaries worldwide is increasing dramatically. To understand better the potential roles of tourist behaviors on pathogen transmission to wild primates, 686 tourist surveys were conducted at the Takasakiyama Monkey Park in Kyushu, Japan, home to over 1000 wild Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata). Almost 93% of survey participants were Japanese. Only 1.5% were carrying their immunization record, many did not know what they were currently vaccinated for, and less than 30% reported ever being vaccinated for measles. 16.5% reported at least one symptom of current infection, with 12.8% reporting at least one current symptom of respiratory tract infection. Surprisingly, only 53.2% believed that humans can give diseases to wild primates. Lack of knowledge about zoonoses and anthropozoonoses may contribute to why 61.2% of participants still expressed desire to feed monkeys at the park, and 22.8% would own one as a pet. The primary reasons for desired or realized animal contact reported by both the park staff and the tourists, are that these animals are ‘cute,’ the thrill of adventure, because their behaviors are often similar to humans, and because they saw others (including professional primatologists) touching primates in various media sources. The majority of tourists that visit wildlife sanctuaries arguably underestimate their own risk of infection as well as their potential contribution to the spread of diseases themselves. Education of travelers about wildlife health is necessary for future sustainable tourism.
This research was supported in part by Indiana University, Bloomington.