A lot of people, myself included, like to base their holidays and places of interests around wildlife. Animal tourism can be fantastic and you can have once in a lifetime opportunities, unfortunately too many people aren’t doing their research and are supporting the bad side of animal tourism. If you want to enjoy the beautiful wildlife in this planet through ethical animal tourism, here are a few tips on how to do that:
Do – Do your research and visit ethical animal sanctuaries/conservation projects.
Doing your research is so important, a lot of red flags can be found very easily and very quickly. If you really love animals and want that special encounter you should be prepared to do your research and do it ethically. I like to use Trip Advisor as well as spending a lot of time googling the places.
Do – Be their voice.
If you visit somewhere unethical be a voice for those that can’t speak. Sometimes things don’t turn out how they were described, you can see horrific cruelty, over-handling and all sorts of unethical behaviour. It’s bad enough that it happens but don’t turn a blind eye. Be a voice. Post on forums, post reviews, post on Trip Advisor, submit a complaint.
Do – Support tours/environments that are about seeing animals in their natural environment.
Before you book or visit, take a little time to find out if it is a safe environment. While animal welfare is important to a lot of companies, a lot are also just about profit. A knowledgeable guide is a huge asset, when they don’t know much you can usually tell it’s all about profit!
Do – Volunteer on conservation projects, make a difference.
Look for conservation projects that help wildlife, sanctuaries that don’t breed for tourism but breed for conservation.This shouldn’t be hands on animal handling unless vet courses or in special circumstances.
Do – Leave wildlife alone
Take lots of photos and admire from a safe distance. We all want that magical encounter but make sure you follow all advice and guides. Keep a safe distance from wildlife, do not try to feed or pet wildlife. We all want that perfect selfie but do it from a safe distance.
Don’t – Don’t go to any places offering any sort of animal handling/animal riding e.g. cub holding, elephant riding, bottle feeding wild animals.
You shouldn’t expect to be going anywhere to pet wildlife. It is against these animals’ natural instinct and in order for you to get that cute photo holding a lion cub, the animal suffers. It is common for animals to be drugged for photo opportunities and animals to be taken from the wild to be used as a prop. A photo with a captive wild animal isn’t harmless, think where that animal has come from. That animal wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for the profit to be made from animal tourism.
Don’t – Don’t forget they are wild animals.
They are dangerous and they will follow their natural instincts. A lot of animals are destroyed if they’ve shown aggression to humans, this is usually our fault for getting too close or provoking an attack.
Don’t – Don’t go to animal shows.
Wild animals should not be forced to do tricks and or on a show for your entertainment. A wild animal performing tricks has most likely been beaten into submission. No elephants ride are ethical, avoid all sanctuaries that offer this. An elephant is a wild animal, they have their spirits broken in order to be ridden, they work long days and their welfare is not a priority. If you haven’t already then watch Blackfish, this describes Sea World well in a nutshell.
Don’t – Don’t ignore negative reviews.
They are there for a reason. If there’s a negative review mentioning animal handling/animal cruelty then make a note of this. If someone else was a voice for the animals, listen to them. Is your entertainment worth the suffering of an animal?
Wildlife tourism does vary from country to country but these are the main dos and don’t’s to follow. Different countries allow different things, this does not mean it is right. Westernised countries aren’t always ahead for animal welfare. Be safe, be smart and be sensible.