Wildlife tourism is a huge market and can promote local livelihoods, education and conservation. Opportunities to see and interact with wild animals abound in many tourist destinations around the world, from taking a sloth selfie or feeding a crocodile, to riding an elephant or cuddling a tiger cub, tourists are offered a whole host of experiences by a wide range of facilities and individuals.
Many experiences though, can put an animal’s welfare at risk and maybe even your own. Often unwillingly and without knowing it, as tourists we can contribute to significant animal suffering and illegal activities such as endangered wildlife trading, as well as putting our own health and safety in jeopardy.
Despite an increasing understanding of what constitutes good animal welfare and our recognition of animals as sentient beings with the ability to feel pleasure and pain, many tourist activities exist that involve the exploitation and mistreatment of animals.
You can make a difference though. Put animal welfare first and do not disturb wildlife, keep a respectful distance, avoid photo opportunities, animal handling interactions, riding animals and buying animal products. And trust your instincts, if something doesn’t feel right – don’t do it.
You can ensure your actions don’t contribute to animal cruelty and that your holiday experience benefits animals, rather than harms them. You hold the power to make choices that speak volumes. What you choose to experience or avoid can help ensure animal wellbeing, not animal suffering, and send a clear message to travel and tourism companies around the world that animal welfare matters. Choose animal-friendly tourism.
Animal cruelty is often unintentionally fuelled through tourists and the tourism trade. There is increasing demand for travel and tourism companies to show due regard for the ethical and welfare aspects of wildlife tourism and we are pleased to have partnered with Booking.com and Explore to have the opportunity to work with their enthusiastic teams in this regard.
Like many other travel companies, Booking.com and Explore both recognise their responsibilities towards ensuring any experiences they offer do not negatively impact animals’ lives. As such, they have both created a set of animal welfare standards, provides guiding principles in how animals can be a part of the travel experience in a responsible, ethical and respectful way.
Having travel companies committing to ensuring their partners around the world meet these standards can drive forward positive changes for animals which may be impacted by the tourism industry.
As experienced animal welfare auditors and advisors in global animal welfare practice, Wild Welfare will continue to help travel and tourism companies willing to improve animal welfare within their offers and experiences. By working with companies in travel, we can help end future captive animal exploitation within the tourism industry, ensuring expeditions and experiences involving wildlife are governed by protective policies like the ones Booking.com and Explore have developed, to ensure minimal disturbance and increased welfare.