Animal tourism is a hugely lucrative industry worldwide. All over the planet, people exploit animals for profit through tourism. People of my era have seen the travelling circus with the elephants, lions and monkeys, which were just sad. We have seen the advertising about riding an elephant or even thought that we have done good by visiting the tiger sanctuary. It is unfortunate, yet often people who consider themselves animal lovers fall into the trap of supporting animal tourism without realizing the cruelty and suffering behind it. This is often because the industry works so hard to project an image of having happy animals that are treated well.
At first glance the attractions may seem harmless. You may even feel that you are helping to protect the animals and support the community organizations looking after them, till you dig deeper and find out what happens behind the scenes. You can make sure that you do not support the cycle of abuse some animals are subjected to by visiting them in their natural habitats instead with organisers who deeply care and are truly about the animal’s welfare. When you know better, you do better.
HOW CAN YOU SPOT UNETHICAL ANIMAL TOURISM?
Unethical animal tourism is any situation where animals are exploited for the economical benefits from tourism. All too often abuse stays hidden behind closed doors and fences. We would expect strict regulations ensuring animal welfare and safety in such places but unfortunately this isn’t always true with many countries having no law against exploiting the amazing wildlife. You’ll find that many so called animal sanctuaries are places set up for entertainment and making money, often staffed by inexperienced staff.
The marketing may have said it’s ethical, may have even sold it as a cultural experience. I urge you to look deeper before you commit to an animal experience. You’d stay away from a circus with animal experience these days, what makes you think that a performing monkey in a Balinese zoo had a better treatment? And when did monkeys perform tricks in the wild?
THE ‘TASTE TEST’ OF ANIMAL TOURISM…
Consider this test for any activities you consider that include animals.
Are you considering visiting and even petting the tigers in a sanctuary? How does this hunter, that could kill you if you saw it in the wild, let you near? Something is not right…
Are you considering swimming with the crocodiles in a cage in a small pool? Those creatures leave in open waters normally! Surely having them in a tiny pool is not right…
That cute little monkey performing has chains around its neck, heck it needs a whip to prompt its next move! Surely it’s not right…
Posing with the animals, hmmm why are they so willing to let you near them?
Let’s face it, with sanctuaries looking amazing, it can be hard to spot what is truly aiding the protection and conservation of animals and what isn’t. Awareness is the key. We must do our due diligence and vote with our dollars to support organizations that are doing right by animals. Whenever in doubt there is only one answer: Don’t do it.
We don’t want to scare you of seeing amazing wildlife on your holidays! There are many organizations out there devoted to the protection, conservation, rehabilitation, and unconditional love and support of animals.
We consider ourselves being one of them! As Yoanis says, ‘I feel it’s our responsibility to teach the importance of preserving nature and protecting vulnerable creatures. Only through instilling the love of nature do we have a hope for saving our environment.’
In our case, we focus on bird watching and diving to raise awareness of the eco-systems both on land and in the water and we partner with those who are passionate about the same causes, hoping to ignite the love of nature and all her creatures in others.
HOW CAN YOU CHOOSE AN ANIMAL-FRIENDLY HOLIDAY?
- Refuse to attend things like zoos, wildlife parks, aquariums, animal performances, animal ‘selfies’, any sort of cuddling, holding, or playing with wildlife.
- Avoid any wildlife experiences that support baiting, animal calls, or any unnatural way of luring the animals to you. By reducing the demand for the ‘experience’ and reducing the money to be made from them, you are reducing the supply.
- Don’t pay to have your picture taken with animals that have been taken from the wild. They have highly likely been abused to get them to behave around tourists.
- Report any case of animal cruelty you see, note the date, time, location, type, and number of animals involved. Record what you have seen on film or take photographs if you possibly can. However, do not put yourself in danger.
- It is vital to lodge your concerns locally to the local tourist offices, local police, a local animal welfare society, or your tour operator.
- Stop purchasing animal products as souvenirs! Purchasing animal products creates demand for them. This means anything from coral earrings to snakeskin belts to a rhino horn and more. By making the conscious decision to stop purchasing animal products, you stop the fatal end they could be facing. These animals are often captured from the wild, badly cared for, and trained using inappropriate and cruel methods
- Avoid animals for entertainment or transport.
- Don’t support things like cockfights, bullfights, and the like, even if it is considered being part of the culture.
- Do your research! There are many amazing animal organizations out there who offer the chance for you to see animals in the wild in a responsible manner – ensuring that animals and their habitats are not disturbed whilst you get a great experience. These organizations will not only provide the experience but will also educate you about the wildlife along the way.
- Hire a local guide who’s interested in the well-being and conservation of the animals. They will know their terrain intimately, what you can see and where and will be keen to show you and educate you about the species you’ll see.
Want to make a difference? You can! By making better choices yourself and spreading the knowledge around ethical animal tourism with others. If we all start saying no to unethical treatment of animals, even better reducing the demand for such practices, we can start seeing a difference in the world.
If you are ready for an adventure in Cuba, you can join our expert conservationalists – Like Shane Gross, who tells the story of the Ocean raising awareness of the amazing sea creatures, or Liron Gertsman, who is all about birdlife conservation to start with. We’d love nothing more than for you to experience the wonderful Cuban nature and help us raise awareness to the beautiful creatures here, many of whom are on the endangered species list.