Our annual Global Wildlife Travel Index is back for 2019.
Last year, our first ever Global Wildlife Travel Index set out to discover the best destinations for wildlife enthusiasts. Our report was read far and wide, inspiring travel destinations for many wildlife enthusiasts, and now we are proud to release our new and improved Global Wildlife Travel Index for 2019.
Our updated Global Wildlife Travel Index 2019 has been adapted to investigate even more elements which create the ideal wildlife travel destination. As the world becomes increasingly eco-conscious, we have placed a particular focus on examining factors around environmental sustainability, environmental prosperity and conservation in this year’s report.
Our 2019 analysis has found Finland to be the best destination in the world for wildlife travel – thanks to its high levels of environmental sustainability, its unique and varied diversity of species, beautiful natural landscapes, and conservation efforts.
These results come as Finland has continued to see a rapid increase in tourism levels over the last year.
Read on below for the full results of our Global Wildlife Travel Index 2019.
The Megafauna Conservation Index assesses the spatial, ecological, and financial contributions of 152 different countries towards the conservation of the world’s terrestrial megafauna - large land animals. The first index of its kind, it highlights which countries are doing the most for wildlife conservation around the world, and which ones could be doing more. Africa dominated the top results in this category, with the top four results comprising countries from the continent, and Norway rounding out the top five. It’s not surprising to see African countries performing well in this area as the continent is known for its conservation efforts and projects. In fact, overall countries in Africa had the highest MCI scores, followed by North/Central America, Asia, Europe, and then South America. Botswana even got a score of 100, the highest possible available.
The WWF and ZSL joined forces to create the Living Planet Index, which has calculated the number of different species found in every single country in the world. For an index focussed on wildlife, this was an important category for us. The index itself is designed to be a measure of the state of global biological diversity, tracking the data for over 20,000 populations of more than 4,200 mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibian species. Perhaps surprisingly, the country with the largest number of different species was Canada, with a reported 6,666 recorded species in the database - almost three times as many as the next highest country. The USA came in second, with 2,341, and Spain came in third with 933.
National parks are parks in use for conservation purposes, designed to protect and nurture the environment and the wildlife that lives here. It goes to show, then, that these are incredibly important ecological sites, and are typically also symbols of national pride. Nearly 100 different countries around the world have designated areas of land to become national parks, as defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Australia has the most, with a total of 685 different parks, with China placing second with a grand total of 208. Luxembourg placed last, with no registered national parks in the entire country.
While it’s a clear benefit to have a large number of national parks, we determined it was worthwhile to record which one was the oldest, and therefore which country had been focussed on conservation efforts long before it became such a big trend. Mongolia was actually the first country to create a national park, over 200 years ago in 1783. The park is the area surrounding - and including - the Bogd Khan mountain which overlooks the country’s capital city. Initially protected as early as 1681 by Zanabazar, it was officially declared a protected site in 1782 by the local Mongolian government of the Qing Dynasty.
This category looks at the amount of land area in each country that’s either totally or partially protected for every 1,000 hectares. Typically, these will be designated by national authorities as scientific reserves with limited public access, national parks, natural monuments, nature reserves or wildlife sanctuaries, and protected landscapes. Clearly, the more protected natural areas the better, as these are areas where wildlife can thrive in their natural habitats with little to no human disturbance. The number one spot was awarded to Venezuela, with over 50% of the total country having been designated a protected area. Also ranking in the top ten are Tanzania, Zambia, and Namibia, key destinations to explore on safari and encounter spectacular wildlife. Tanzania has a number of extremely varied protected areas, ranging from sea habitats to the grasslands on top of Mount Kilimanjaro, while Namibia is home to the famous Mudumu National Park.
Forested areas are incredibly important in maintaining and improving the ecology and wildlife of a country. The aim is to ensure that by 2020 the conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland ecosystems are at the forefront of new manifestos and agendas. Forest areas are crucial for wildlife; often home to thousands of different species, the ecosystems provided for and thriving in these areas form the foundation for the food chains and systems in place, as well as being the predominant habitat for most of these animals. Removing even part of the forest area can have a detrimental effect on the wildlife. Gabon actually came first for this category, with an incredible 89.3% of the country nominated as forest area. Both Finland and Sweden, claiming first and second place on our Global Wildlife Travel Index, have forest areas which cover over 68% of their land. Qatar came last, with 0%.
Our environmental prosperity data comes from the Legatum Prosperity Index, which exists to promote policies that create pathways from poverty to prosperity. More than just the accumulation of material wealth, prosperity is also the joy of everyday life and the prospect of an even better life in the future – and the natural environment has a lot to do with that. In fact, the natural environment pillar measures a country’s performance in three areas: the quality of the natural environment, environmental pressures, and preservation efforts. Slovenia came first and has won the top spot every year that the Index has been running. The UK placed second, having climbed from 6th place in 2007, while Finland was third.
Environmental sustainability is talked about with regards to every aspect of our lives from eco homes, to eco-tourism, sustainable food, renewable energy, and fast fashion. For the purposes of the Global Wildlife Travel Index 2019, we specifically looked at the risk posed to groups of species across every country. Using the Red List Index, the data assesses the extinction risk, of different species based on various genuine threats. Sweden came in top, with a score of 0.992 – the closest to 1 of all the countries, which indicates virtually all species categorised as least concern.
To create our Global Wildlife Travel Index 2019, we analysed the following categories:
Using the 3rd party sources as outlined in the source list below, we scored each country in the above categories on a scale of 1(lowest) - 5(highest).
We then totalled every country’s score across all of the categories to get a final Global Wildlife Travel Index Score, with a highest total of 40 available.
We then ranked each country using this final total score. Where there was a draw in the total score we used environmental prosperity as the ranking factor.
Full dataset is available upon request.
Head of Europe, True Luxury Travel
The Arctic circle in Finland and Sweden remains one of the wildest corners of our planet. It never ceases to amaze me that things can survive in this harsh environment. Plants, humans and animals have all adapted in amazing ways to withstand the extreme Arctic seasons. To experience the wildlife and beauty of this corner of the world, nothing gets you closer to nature than spending time with the indigenous Sami people of Finnish and Swedish Lapland. They work with the land, animals and landscape, and it's fascinating to learn about their culture and how they're adapting to tackle future environmental changes.True Luxury Travel
Guyana is a wonderful underrated destination for wildlife tourism. The country only sees a few thousand visitors a year, and it offers the opportunity to see wildlife in two distinct environments - the savannah, and Amazon rainforest. On a week-long tour of the Rupununi savannah we spotted a giant anteater, otters and a variety of birds, while in the Amazon it's possible to see jaguars and the harpy eagle, one of the world's rarest birds of prey.The Crowded Planet
One of our favourite wildlife destinations is Botswana. The country has prioritized conservation and reserved almost a quarter of its land for protected areas and national parks. In addition to the "Big 5" African animals, the Okavango Delta is full of birds, fish and other wildlife. Botswana is an ideal place to go on safari as the animals have ample space to roam and are protected, the parks are not very crowded so you are often not competing with many other safari vehicles, and the diversity and quantity of wildlife that you'll see is impressive. For example, we saw over ten lions and their cubs during one morning safari drive.Uncornered Market