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Captive Elephant Welfare Initiative

Elephants in captivity are an ethical concern in the tourism industry. The rapid growth in tourism’s demand for interaction with elephants across Asia coupled with inadequate government regulations has resulted of poor treatment of these animals in many of the elephant facilities. Other facilities however are working in compliance with the best achievable practices in close partnership with elephant experts and universities. Up to date no international accepted standard and related assessment system was existing. The so-called Elephant Camp Animal Welfare Standard and Assessment initiative aims to recognise the better camps and to motivate those not yet complying towards better animal welfare.

Elephants in Asia

With over 3000 years of captive elephant history and given that there are over ten thousand captive elephants in Asia it is important to establish scientific facts, respect local culture and lay down solid foundations that ensure the welfare of captive elephants as well as their traditional mahouts.

Despite calls for action from various animal rights groups, their approach is often not based on scientific facts, does not engage mahouts and elephant (family) business, does not present achievable solutions nor looks at long term sustainability and the survival of the species as such.

We believe responsible tourism encouraging elephant experiences of the highest standard is the most immediate, viable solution. We believe by engaging stakeholders to seek holistic improvements and setting standards across the industry, more can be done to protect elephants than by staging boycotts or signing pledges. Hard work and hard choices based on scientific facts, balancing the interest of individual Elephants, the mahouts, and the conservation of the Asian Elephant, are required by all involved.

Leading Asian tour operators with support of Travelife for Tour Operators, the Asian Captive Elephant Working Group (ACEWG) and PATA have therefore initiated a process to establish a widely supported set of standards and criteria as a guideline and reference for elephant camps. The Elephant Camp Animal Welfare Initiative will provide tour operators as well as their clients the ability to make an informed, ethical choice

Information meeting for Thai Elephant camp owners and managers (August 2017)

The standard

The standard is based upon international animal welfare and sustainability principles including the Asian Captive Elephant Working Group (ACEWG) principles for captive elephants. The standards have also been subject to consultation from individual elephant experts from various disciplines (e.g. elephant veterinarians, mahouts, behavioural experts, biologist, animal learning experts, researchers). Based on a careful process a final draft of the standard was reached in 2017. The standard includes more than 160 criteria divided over 7 themes and 24 subthemes and provides detailed guidelines for the camps as well as the external assessor covering not only the elephants but also the staff, mahouts, sustainable business practices and the relation with the local communities. Elephant camps that comply with the highest of standards treat their elephants in the best possible manner and are committed towards a process of permanent improvement. The scientific based guidelines cover, for example cruelty free learning science based training techniques, closely monitored and regulated working hours, rest periods throughout the day – ideally in a forested area to socialize, bathe and relax and more. Responsible camps have veterinarians on staff, and/or provide regular health checks. Elephants are not tied up with chains of lengths less than 2 metres for prolonged periods of time. Good camps work with local communities providing jobs, marketing local handicrafts and purchasing local supplies to ensure everyone benefits. Camps promoting best practices also actively support and engage in research and conservation projects protecting animals in the wild.

Any interactions between elephants and tourists are based on scientific standards and do not compromise the welfare of the elephants or endanger humans. Most importantly, all good camps register their elephants with the relevant government department, complete with DNA testing to ensure no wild stocks are being captured and added to the captive population. The assessment is designed to ensure standards set by leading experts are being met and improved.

Currently more than 30 elephant facilities from Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Malaysia and Indonesia have enrolled in the program and are under assessment. They are committed to improvements to comply with the standard.

Supporting tour operators
The initiative is supported by a growing number of Asian tour operators including:.

When you travel with the tour operators supporting this initiative you can be assured that any elephant experience suggested is being held to the highest of international standards and practices. In this way we believe we are effectively contributing to the protection and preservation of elephants in Asia.

The destination management companies (DMCs) and tour operators involved in this initiative will also no longer work with any elephant camp that refuses to be audited or assessed as complete transparency is needed in all aspects of the operations to gauge and ensure responsible practices are indeed in place. Thus financial gains are directed to those working on improving and ensuring the long term welfare of their captive elephants and staff and not to those operating unethically or purely for profit or under false (animal welfare) pretences.

So yes, elephants in captivity is an ethical concern under current circumstances but by working together and using tourism as a powerful tool in the right way, we can ensure the long-term quality if life of thousands of captive elephants throughout Asia and provide clients with an inspiring experience, whilst improving the lives of all involved and preserving local culture and heritage.

Animal welfare auditor and advisor training (Chiang Mai, August 2017)

For more information please contact:

PATA Sustainability: ssr@PATA.org
Travelife for Tour Operators: info@travelife.info
Asian Captive Elephant Working Group: http://acewg.org

Resources

http://sustain.pata.org/interview-dr-andrew-mclean-human-elephant-learning-program/

Statement

http://sustain.pata.org/captive-elephant-welfare-initiative/

http://acewg.org/news/

www.travelife.info/index_new.php?menu=projects&lang=en

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PATA acknowledges that elephants in Asia are indeed working animals, and that owning an elephant is an investment. Recognising that there is a growing rift between stakeholders regarding animal welfare, The Elephant Camp Animal Welfare and Sustainability Standard and Assessment Initiative has been developed.

The purpose of this initiative is to ensure that activities and experiences at elephant camps are conducted in a responsible way, understanding the increasing concerns from both informed travellers and animal rights groups.

 

The challenge:

  • Growing concern of tourism industry stakeholders (Western travellers and operators) regarding animal welfare
  • Elephant camps in Asia lack set standards and an accompanying evaluation system
  • Some tour operators are evaluating camps based on self-developed checklists, an inefficient use of resources and a source of confusion on acceptable and responsible management practices amongst camps

 

Until now, there has been no widely accepted set of criteria for evaluation systems present for elephant camps in Asia.

 

The solution

Recognising the above issues, the PATA Tour Operator Sustainability Working Group, under the Chairmanship of Travelife for Tour Operators, developed a first draft of the standard on the basis of the ABTA Animal Welfare Guidance. Stakeholders and experts were given the opportunity to comment the standard. The draft has been revised several times following testing at elephant camps in Phuket and Northern Thailand. A final draft of the standard was ratified in February 2017. The standard includes in total, 166 criteria divided over 7 themes and 24 subthemes (see table). Specific implementation and auditor guidance and tools are presently being developed for the relevant criteria, with an auditors training to be conducted later this summer.

 

The Elephant Camp Animal Welfare and Sustainability Standard and Assessment Initiative is an answer to the growing concern of tourism industry stakeholders regarding animal welfare.

 

Who is involved

The Elephant Camp Welfare and Sustainability Standard is an initiative of Travelife for Tour Operators and the PATA Sustainable Tour Operators Working Group (TOWG), a subdivision of the PATA Sustainability & Social Responsibility Committee, the aim of the TOWG is to develop common standards and tools in order to jointly evaluate suppliers (e.g. accommodations, transport, excursions and attractions).

Present key members of the working group include: EXO Travel, Khiri Travel, Buffalo Tours, Go Vacation, Destination Services, Diethelm Travel, Destination Asia. The initiative is endorsed by PATA, World Animal Protection (WAP), ABTA and the Asian Captive Elephant Working Group (ACEWG), an informal network of elephant welfare experts and veterinarians, who are working to improving welfare standards of elephants in captivity on the basis of a scientific consensus.

 

Get involved

The key objective of the standard and evaluation system will be to support in- and outbound tour operators in their objectives to better select camps and to motivate camps towards improved animal welfare and sustainability standards. The initiative is open for other in- and outbound tour operators in Asia and its source markets that are PATA members in good standing.

Participating TOs will have the following benefits:

  • Receive annual updates on the performance of their camps
  • Opportunity to propose camps for an onsite audit
  • Receive information on camps not yet in your portfolio
  • Ability to share and access information between in- and outbound partners
  • Ability to provide clients a specific choice in compliance with their expectations

 

Be a part of the solution

For more information or to participate, please contact PATA Sustainability & Social Responsibility Specialist, Chi Lo: chi@pata.org or Travelife for Tour Operators General Manager, Naut Kusters: n.kusters@travelife.info.

Elephant Camp Animal Welfare and Sustainability Standard

 

Note: PATA aims to support, endorse, and provide education about this issue; however, we are not responsible for enforcing how elephant camps and tour operators perform.

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Credit: Shutterstock

As the sun rises and the flooded forests of Cambodia’s Stung Seng wildlife sanctuary come alive with the chattering and whooping of endangered monkeys with their elegant silvery-grey fur, fishermen from the Phat Sanday commune make their way towards the lake to set their nets for the day.

Located in the Tonle Sap biosphere reserve, the unique wetlands ecosystem of Stung Seng provides food and shelter for a number of species and acts as an important fish nursery. Surrounding floating village communities are also dependent on the wetland’s lakes and trees for clean water, fish, wood, fruits and nuts for their survival.

Unfortunately, in recent years, illegal fishing, overfishing, hunting and forest exploitation have been threatening the health of this vibrant forest. With more than 90% of the commune population relying on fishing, the catch in the lake has been declining.

To combat this, sustainable tourism – where neither the natural environment nor the socio-cultural fabric of the host communities should be impaired by the arrival of tourists – has been introduced to the commune. By providing an alternative source of income, a responsible tourism plan in Phat Sanday is a means of conserving the environment and enhancing the livelihoods of local people.

“Some villagers, especially the youth, move to the city and neighbouring countries to find jobs because there aren’t many available here,” says Mr Leng Sok, a commune council member of Phat Sanday. “Sustainable tourism can help generate income for people who are providing boat, food and accommodation services to tourists. To attract more tourists, our natural resources will need to be protected and sustainably managed.”

Funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) and implemented by Wild Cambodia Organisation, the project that Mr Leng is part of emphasises the importance of using participatory approaches to involve villagers in the development and implementation of a ‘responsible tourism master plan.’ The involvement of villagers in the plans not only allows them to contribute their traditional knowledge on their surrounding environments, but also empowers them to take ownership of environmental conservation and their own livelihood enhancement.

Photo: Consultation meeting with local tourism working group © Wild Cambodia Organisation

“When tourism is fully developed, many tourists will come to visit our community and people in our commune will be able to earn more money. To provide good services, we need to train local people in hospitality, especially in activities such as cooking, operating boats, guiding tours etc. This requires a sustainable funding stream. As agreed in our workshops, we plan to use the profit generated from tourism to support conservation activities and commune development. This includes education, health and infrastructure,” said Mr Khoeung, leader of the Phat Sanday Community Protected Area.

This year’s theme for International Day for Biological Diversity is “Biodiversity and Tourism”.

As reflected in the Cambodian project above, attractive landscapes and rich biodiversity are of great importance to tourism economies. The protected areas of South and Southeast Asia are particularly important for tourism and are drawing an increasingly large number of domestic and international visitors. The total contribution of tourism to the gross domestic product in the Asia-Pacific region was approximately US $2,270 billion in 2016, and approximately 159 million people in the Asia-Pacific region are working in jobs related to the tourism sector.

Tourism also relates to many of the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Some focus on reducing damage to biodiversity from tourism, while others focus on pursuing positive contributions of tourism through community engagement and raising awareness for biodiversity, protected areas and habitat restoration.

Recognising the importance of tourism in biodiversity conservation, many programmes and organisations are already working with local communities to ensure that tourism not only benefits the economy but also the environment.

CEPF, for example, has supported a number of sustainable tourism projects in the Indo-Burma region since 2008. Some of the projects train local tour guides in ecotourism while others provide support in the development of policies for sustainable tourism.

Another grant-making mechanism, Mangroves for the Future (MFF), a partnership-based coastal programme co-chaired by IUCN and UNDP, has been supporting over 30 projects that focus on sustainable tourism development, since 2007. In India, the Grande & Bat Island ecosystem project assessed and analysed tourism-related threats to the island’s marine ecosystem. The project also trained 40 tour-boat operators on implementing sustainable practices for dolphin watching.

While tourism benefits local communities – both economically and socially- the natural environment cannot be sacrificed in the process. Tourism must be practised responsibly and sustainably, so as to ensure that the biodiversity and species that are critical for maintaining balance in ecosystems are safeguarded.

As a step in achieving this, local and national governments, tourism industries, businesses and local communities need to work together, as part of an inclusive and participatory process, to design the vision and way forward for a sustainable future.

 

Access the article here.

By the IUCN

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Credit: Shutterstock

 

Biodiversity and Sustainable Tourism

 

This theme has been chosen to coincide with the observance of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development as proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in its Resolution 70/193 and for which the United Nations World Tourism Organization is providing leadership.

Biodiversity, at the level of species and ecosystems, provides an important foundation for many aspects of tourism. Recognition of the great importance to tourism economies of attractive landscapes and a rich biodiversity underpins the political and economic case for biodiversity conservation. Many issues addressed under the Convention on Biological Diversity directly affect the tourism sector. A well-managed tourist sector can contribute significantly to reducing threats to, and maintain or increase, key wildlife populations and biodiversity values through tourism revenue.

Tourism relates to many of the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets. For some Targets (for example 5, 8, 9, 10 and 12) this is primarily about ensuring greater control and management to reduce damage to biodiversity from tourism. For others (1, 11, 15, 18, and 20) this is about pursuing the positive contribution of tourism to biodiversity awareness, protected areas, habitat restoration, community engagement, and resource mobilization. A further dimension is the better integration of biodiversity and sustainability into development policies and business models that include tourism, thereby supporting Aichi Biodiversity Targets 2 and 4.

Celebration of the IDB under this theme therefore provides an opportunity to raise awareness and action towards the important contribution of sustainable tourism both to economic growth and to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Furthermore, the theme also provides a unique opportunity to contribute to ongoing initiatives such as the Sustainable Tourism Programme of the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns and to promote the CBD Guidelines on Biodiversity and Tourism Development.

We invite Parties and organizations that have already initiated national plans for activities to celebrate the International Day for Biological Diversity to keep the Secretariat informed of such plans and other noteworthy activities organized by NGOs or other organizations so that they may be included in these pages.

Read the notification here.

By the Convention on Biological Diversity

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White rhinos graze on a ranch belonging to John Hume, one of the rhino farmers who sued to overturn South Africa’s ban on the domestic sales of rhino horn. PHOTOGRAPH BY WALDO SWIEGERS, BLOOMBERG/GETTY

 

It will soon be legal to buy and sell rhino horn within South Africa. The country’s constitutional court dismissed an application to appeal from the government to keep a ban on the trade in place, the South African government confirms.

This ends a lengthy legal battle that pitted rhino owners, who farm rhinos like livestock and want to be able to sell their reserves of rhino horn once again, against the government’s Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), which placed a moratorium on the trade in 2009 after a jump in poaching. Lower courts have sided with the rhino farmers, but the ban remained in place as the government’s appeal worked through the courts. Knowing that it may lose, the government began preparing for legalization earlier this year by issuing new draft regulations to govern the trade. They say that anyone with a permit will be able to buy and sell rhino horns and that foreigners will be allowed to export a maximum of two horns for “personal purposes.”

Read more on the legislation of rhino horn here.

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Sustainability in tourism isn’t just about re-using that hotel towel a second day. It’s thinking deeply about how visitors get in and out of a destination while doing the least harm.

— Jason Clampet

With 2017 being the United Nations’ International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, now is as good a time as ever to take stock of the opportunities and challenges faced by tourism providers trying to ensure the long-term sustainability of the industry.

While tourism is important to many local and national economies, overcrowding is changing the perception of the benefits of mass tourism. Spain is a prime example of a country struggling with its popularity.

Barcelona’s relationship with tourism has been shaky for a number of years now. Already in 2014, the documentary “Bye Bye Barcelona” highlighted the negative impact of mass tourism on the city. Locals fear that they will be priced out of the housing market, eventually resulting in Barcelona losing population diversity and character. The local government has stopped issuing licences for new hotels and has banned change-of-use permits required for holiday lets.

And Barcelona is not alone. As of 2017, Santorini is limiting the number of cruise visitors to 8,000 per day. Local activists in Venice have asked government to ban cruise ships stopping in its harbour, as cruise visitors have quintupled in the past 15 years. Cinque Terre on the Italian coast is capping the number of visitors to 1.5 million per year. Popular attractions including Machu Picchu and Mount Everest are capping the number of visitors and require visitors to be accompanied by a recognised guide, and Zion National Park is looking at proposals to limit visitors through a reservation system.

Capping tourists is a drastic measure, and surely not something destinations would like to do. It is often seen as a last resort, and the fact that more and more tourist destinations see no other way to remain sustainable and competitive is telling of the apparent failure of other initiatives.

 

Read more here.

By Wouter Geerts, Euromonitor from Skift

 

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New bird species and giraffe under threat – IUCN Red List

Categories: Americas, Fauna, North, Recommended Reading, Wildlife
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Photo

Photo credits: D. McCoy

The giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) is now threatened with extinction.

Photo credits: IUCN Photo Library, Alicia Wirz

Spring wild oat (Avena fatua) is among the crop wild relative species assessed for this update.

Photo credits: Stephane

Cancun, Mexico, 8 December 2016 (IUCN) – Over 700 newly recognised bird species have been assessed for the latest update of The IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM, and 11% of them are threatened with extinction. The update also reveals a devastating decline for the giraffe, driven by habitat loss, civil unrest and illegal hunting. The global giraffe population has plummeted by up to 40% over the last 30 years, and the species has been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. – By IUCN. Read more.

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Silly Animals for Hump Day Wednesday

Categories: Fauna, Planet, Recommended Reading, Wildlife
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Hump Day Wednesday is here, the dreaded middle of the work week. To help you get over that hill, we present you with our favourite finalists of this year’s Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards featuring cute and silly animals. Enjoy!

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Silly Animals Edward Kopeschny Midland Ontario Phone: 705-528-1636 Email: edkophoto@yahoo.com Title: Mrs Happy Description: One very content snowy owl. Animal: Snowy Owl Location of shot: Minesing, Ontario, Canada

 

Silly Animals Barb D'Arpino Wasaga Beach Phone: 705 429-4592 Email: barbaralynne@rogers.com Title: No butter or salt? Description: Eastern Chipmunk stuffing her cheeks with corn until they looked ready to pop. Animal: Eastern Chipmunk Location of shot: Wasaga Beach, Ontario, Canada

 

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Silly Animals George Dian Balan Brussels Belgium Phone: +32484744195 Email: dian.balan@gmail.com Title: Push Me Pull You Description: Two wide rhinos organised back-to-back in defence formation seem to be the rarest creature in Africa, Push Me Pull You. Animal: wide rhino Location of shot: Laikipia, Kenya

 

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Click here to check out the rest of the finalists!

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Building Reef Resilience

Categories: Fauna, Flora, Planet, Recommended Reading, Sea
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Source: Scuba Diver Life

Source: Scuba Diver Life

“Resilience” has become a buzzword when it comes to the future health of coral reefs, but how exactly can you help in the face of climate change?

As a diver, you’ve probably heard that reefs are under intense and unprecedented pressures — you’ve probably seen evidence of this on your own dives. And, you’re probably aware that the sources of these pressures are global and extensive; climate change and ocean acidification. It’s easy to feel helpless when it comes to the strife of our coral reefs. There’s very little we can do to influence this…or is there? Green Fins promotes an ecosystem approach to strengthening reef resilience.

Continue reading on Scuba Diver Life!

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Rides we should not book

Categories: Fauna, Recommended Reading, Wildlife
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A mahout and tourists riding an elephant in Chitwan National Park. Source: TTR Weekly

A mahout and tourists riding an elephant in Chitwan National Park. Source: TTR Weekly

BANGKOK, 9 May 2016: Elephant rides are heading for exit door fast.  That’s the prognosis presented by thousands of tourists who make their voice heard through animal rights’ blogs and social media.

It is also the opinion of a few far-thinking elephant owners. By Don Ross. Read more.

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