Let us be honest, as tourists we are somewhat naive and gullible. First, we book a trip to some exotic country and plan to see the most it has to offer. If we are lucky enough to find one with exotic animals, we will pay to take pictures to share on social media. However, what may seem harmless, in actual fact, it endorses and supports slavery, money laundering and illegal trafficking. If those were human children chained and dressed up in ridiculous outfits, we would be appalled. But when they are bears, monkeys, elephants and tigers, we cannot help ourselves but forget how cruel the whole ordeal is. Thus, as tourists we book our trips and book “experiences” that allow us to take pictures, hug, or stroke wild animals. Even when such experiences are illegal and highly unethical.
Many of the animals that you will find being promoted as wildlife experiences are endangered (tigers, chimpanzees, orangutans, slow lorises etc.). Their endangered status is partly due to declining habitat size, human population pressures and environmental changes. However, the most damaging is the public perception and the occuring illegal wildlife trade. Thus, before we enroll ourselves in these questionable activities, why can we not stop and think “where did they get this animal from?” and more importantly “is this good for the animal’s welfare?”. Maybe it is our human greed, the need to own everything, to experience everything, the desire to tame wild animals, that eludes our common sence.
World Animal Protection has recently launched a new campaign encouraging the public to “Demand [Trip Advisor] stop promoting and selling tickets to cruel wildlife tourist attractions”. It is important to recognise that we all have a responsibility to change our bad (tourist) habits. We can change this by firstly stopping the demand for such attractions. But little will change unless we demand it from those who supply us with cruel experiences, that are sold under “entertainment”. Sign the petition here and demand Trip Advisor stop selling cruel wildlife experiences: Wildlife. Not Entertainers.
Avoid booking these experiences:
- Taking pictures with any wild animals: if it could have come from the wild, it most definitely belongs in the wild.
- Be wary of “sanctuaries” where animals are timid and tame enough to take pictures: they may have been sedated, especially for tourists.
- “Sanctuaries” where only tiger, lion or other cubs are present with no adult animals in sight: The adults are either sold for trophy hunting activities (as they are timid, not afraid of humans and thus easier to shoot), or are used as breeding machines while the cubs eventually are sold into the pet trade or for traditional medicine production.
- Any animals performing tricks: remember how cruel circuses were considered to be. It’s like that, but worse. Animals are taken from the wild, tortured untill they “learn” the tricks and then spend long, sleepless, stressful hours performing for tourists.
- Any animal (esp. elephant) rides: Elephants do not like being taken away from their caring families, having their spirits broken untill they are willing to give up and allow the trainer to torture them. They do not appreciate fat westerners breaking their backs for a stroll in the forest. All they ever wanted was to be with their families, left alone in peace.