This research has been executed by the University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) and accredited by World Animal Protection where they have compared expert scientific reviews of wildlife tourism venues with more than 50,000 reviews on TripAdvisor. This deplayed that 80% of people left positive reviews for venues that are treating wild animals very badly. The aim of this report is to uncover the cruelty that’s hiding behind irresponsible wildlife tourism.
This study is divided into several sections. The first one points out wildlife tourism in general which has a prominent place in the Tourism Industry because it constitutes approximately 20 to 40% of global tourism so it is seen as a big and growing industry. WildCRU estimated 188 different venues, 51,308 reviews left on TripAdvisor and around 110 million people worldwide that come to visit cruel wildlife tourist attractions every year. The main problem here about Animal Tourism is that 80% of tourists don’t see the negative impact wildlife tourist attractions have on animal welfare.
Secondly, WildCRU researchers analysed 24 different types of wildlife entertainment attractions and rated them based on two distinct criterias: welfare and conservation. The leading activity is riding elephants. To do this, elephants are taken from their mothers when they are still babies, being separated from their mothers almost always causes intense anxiety and abnormal development and they are getting educated through a horrific training process more likely known as “the crush” which is a method where the target is to starve and beat elephants in order to be able to do everything possible with them. Crushing also involves making the elephants stay awake for days. This process is used to break the young elephant’s spirit so they will accept anything such as people riding on their back or any other direct contact between them and tourists. This is enormously damaging to their physical and psychological well being as they are often kept on chains or in small enclosures and never allowed to roam freely as they would do in their natural habitat. Contrary to what’s widely known, elephants are one of the most dangerous animals to handle, therefore, handlers use bullhooks to maintain control on them which can cause serious injuries just like infected sores and cuts and elephants that are kept in these situations are regularly given little veterinary care and so, if a wound doesn’t get treated on time, it can quickly become a big problem.
In Thailand, there’s the Nong Nooch Garden which is a tropical botanical garden that holds captive about 60 elephants, where they are ridden, used for souvenir pictures and forced to entertain tourists by doing all kind of different actions that are not natural for them such as playing football, painting, riding tricycles, throwing darts and dancing. More than 20 elephants are forced to perform six times per day, every day. On TripAdvisor, a recent visitor described their venue as “a happy place to visit”, another one said “I feel a bit sorry that the animals are in captivity but I would still go back again”. The Nong Nooch Garden has currently a rating of 4.5/5 stars and has even received the “TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence” price and is graded number one on the “attractions not to miss” when travelling to the country.
Another cruel attraction is the dancing monkeys one. Many species of primates are used for street entertainment and there is also a systematic abuse of 290 macaques based in venues offering macaques shows in Thailand where they are being trained aggressively and painfully in order to make them behave and act more humanely. Often dressed up as geishas, they are forced to dance and perform tricks for groups of tourists and when not performing, they are chained in barren cages. As they grow, chains can become lodged in their skin leading to painful infections and diseases.
Now that some of the worst attractions have been laid open, it is best to know that not every attractions are cruel and hurtful for animals. There are also some organizations created to protect and take care of animals that had been held captive. The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) is one of them. It is a leading orangutan rescue organization that takes in and cares for orangutans who have been kept illegally as pets and used in the entertainment industry. Since it was founded back in 1991, it has rescued more than 2,200 orangutans and nowadays, provides care to around 700.
Many tour operators have rejected working with companies associated with cruel animals tourism entertainment and the number keeps on growing. Many of them, all around the world, have committed to find ways to provide wildlife-friendly holiday experiences for their customers.