Wildlife Tourism sans Animal Abuse

By: Gajender K Sharma

New Delhi, February 11 (G’nY News Service): Cruelty towards animals takes place in many forms at tourist destinations. Whether it be a ride on a meek elephant, or a snake charmer’s performance, or a walk with the lion ‘king’ in a safari park – the animals involved are subject to unimaginable cruelty to turn them into meek ‘pets’, devoid of their natural instincts to feed the trillion dollar wildlife tourism industry, that contributes nearly 9 per cent to global gross domestic product (GDP) (Filionet. al. 1994).

In a report launched on February 4, 2016, World Animal Protection (WAP) found that three out of four wildlife tourist attractions involve some form of animal abuse or conservation concerns. According to WAP Country Director Gajender K Sharma, “WAP believes at least 550,000 wild animals are suffering at the hands of irresponsible tourist attractions around the world. This evidence comes from the first ever global research into the scale of welfare and conservation of wildlife tourism by University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) commissioned by World Animal Protection”.

The top ten cruelest wildlife entertainment activities, according to WAP are: riding elephants, taking tiger selfies, walking with lions, visiting bear parks, holding sea turtles, performing dolphins, dancing monkeys, touring civet cat coffee plantations, charming snakes, kissing cobras and farming crocodiles.

Sharma stated, “as tourism continues to grow, we estimate that approximately 110 million people visit these cruel wildlife tourist attractions each year, unaware of the animal abuse involved. These welfare abuses include very young animals being taken from their mothers, beaten and harmed during training to ensure they are passive enough to give rides, perform tricks or pose for holiday ‘selfies’ with tourists”.

To end this, WAP has taken the initiative to transform the tourism industry. “The tourism industry as a whole should take more responsibility for where it sends unknowing tourists as there is no global regulation regarding use of wild animals in tourism”, feels WAP.

WAP is currently working with both the travel industry and tourists to end cruelty to wild animal in entertainment and to only promote wildlife holiday experiences that are beneficial for animals.  “As many as 83 per cent of the people have said that they would prefer to see wild animals in the wild and a further 85 per cent have said that tour operators should avoid activities causing harm for wild animals. Following our approaches over the past four years, 87 companies across the world have committed to stop selling elephant rides and shows”, says the country director of WAP.

Trip Advisor, the largest online tourist review site has already agreed to share ‘Best Wildlife Tourism Attractions’ with travelers. “We are raising tourists’ awareness about the cruelties of riding elephants and other wildlife entertainment activities through campaigns across the world. Once people know about the welfare abuses, we will ask them to inform other tourists about these. We want to work with them to find solutions so it is no longer possible for cruel wildlife venues to receive misleading endorsements, such as a Certificate of Excellence”, says Sharma.

He also emphasized the role of governments adding that, “the government is the absolute authority when it comes to improvising and bringing in sustainable solutions and policies to address this situation.”

However, WAP intends to concentrate its efforts on tourists, since in the absence of any regulation, it is the “tourists who have the potential to change the industry.” At the moment, tourists visit wildlife attractions to enjoy the company of animals they love, unaware of the abuse involved. Once awareness is created in these matters, a global movement can automatically put an end to wildlife attractions that uproot wild animals from the wild and place them in parks for our entertainment, feels Sharma.



1. Filion F.L., Foley J.P., Jacqemot A.J., (1994). The economics of global ecotourism. In: M. Munasinghe, J. McNealy, (eds). Protected Area Economics and Policy: Linking Conservation and Sustainable Development.(pp.235–52). Washington, DC: The World Bank.

2. World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).(2014). UNWTO Tourism Highlights, 2014 Edition [23/12/2014]. Available at: http://mkt.unwto.org/publication/unwto-tourism-highlights-2014-edition

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