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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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(Credit: World Wildlife Day – The poster was created by Jerry LoFaro, Mohammed Elnour and Patrick George)

 

This year’s World Wildlife Day on March 3 is the purr-fect opportunity to show your love for big cats – the endangered predators fighting to survive in Africa, Asia, and North, Central and South America. These majestic creatures are at risk be-claws of many and varied threats, that are mostly caused by human activities. Big cats include not only lions, tigers, leopards and jaguars – the four largest wild cats that can roar – but also cheetahs, snow leopards, pumas, and clouded leopards.

UN World Wildlife Day celebrates and raises awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants – this day was proclaimed in 2013 as the day of signature the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

Please paws for a moment and spend some time to learn about these charismatic and admired animals across the globe. Purr-haps, you would like to participate in an event taking place in your country.

The official World Wildlife Day websites shares furry cool and creatives ideas on how to get involved, or choose one of our favourite ideas:

  1. Bring the World Wildlife Day to your office talk to your co-workers about the day during lunch time. Speak up and share your knowledge, passion and questions about wildlife conservation with your co-workers, friends, family and community – either in person or online. For inspiration on spreading the word via social media, have a look at this social media kit.
  2. Use your talent to show your support in the conservation of big cats and inspire the world. For example, check out the amazing sand art created by an Indian sand artist for last year’s World Wildlife Day. Your own creativity is the only limit!
  3. Watch and share the official outreach video for World Wildlife Day 2018 or hold a screening of wildlife films. Check out this page, if you are interested in hosting the screening of the winning film of this year’s International Big Cats Film Festival.

It’s time to take cat-ion and help the un-fur-tunate predators meow!

#WorldWildlifeDay #BigCats #PredatorsUnderThreat #WWD2018 #DoOneThingToday #iProtectBigCats

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Supporters of an ivory ban protest outside the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, China January 31, 2018. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

“We now need to see all other countries close loopholes that still allow the illegal trade of ivory to continue.”

Lawmakers in Hong Kong voted to ban all ivory sales in the territory on Wednesday, a move environmentalists hailed as a definitive measure to help curb elephant poaching.

The policies represent a massive step forward in the fight against elephant poaching across Africa and in parts of Asia, where the animals are slaughtered for their tusks. Environmentalists estimate more than 33,000 elephants are killed every year to help feed the demand for ivory, which is seen as a status symbol in some Asian countries.

Countries including Thailand and Vietnam are now the largest remaining markets for the ivory trade, and officials are calling on more sweeping bans to be instituted around the globe.

Read the full article here.

By Nick Visser for the HuffPost.

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People enjoying elephant ride in Chitwan National Park, on Saturday. Photo: THT

Amid increased activism by global animal rights activists against elephant ride, jungle safari operators based in Chitwan and Nawalparasi have demanded that the government come up with a regulations with minimum conditions to be fulfilled for using elephants for tourism and wildlife conservation.

Stating that elephant is a crucial part of Nepal’s wildlife tourism and conservation, they said banning their use completely would have an adverse impact on tourism, which is one of the major contributors to the national economy. At the same time, it would also hamper conservation efforts, and put at risk the livelihood of elephants in captivity.

According to elephant safari operators, tourism also provides livelihood to elephants in captivity. They say these elephants are not only earning money for the tourism business, they are ahelso earning for themselves.

Read the full article about the jungle safari operators’ demand for regulations here.

By Himalayan News Service for The Himalayan Times.

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Thanks to a camera trap, a polar bear unwittingly makes a self-portrait in Svalbard. PHOTOGRAPH BY PAUL NICKLEN, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Lack of sea ice is making it more difficult for polar bears to find food.

When photographer Paul Nicklen and filmmakers from conservation group Sea Legacy arrived on Baffin Island in late summer, they came across a heartbreaking sight: a starving polar bear on its deathbed.

Nicklen is no stranger to bears. From the time he was a child growing up in Canada’s far north the biologist turned wildlife photographer has seen over 3,000 bears in the wild. But the emaciated polar bear, featured in videos Nicklen published to social media on December 5, was one of the most gut-wrenching sights he’s ever seen.

“We stood there crying—filming with tears rolling down our cheeks,” he said.

Read the full article and watch the video here.

By Sarah Gibbens for The National Geographic.

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Galaxy , Mary’s ‘poler’, navigates the rich ecosystem of the inland delta (Credit: Mary Holland)

Botswana’s government-led anti-poaching unit has become a model for conservation in Africa

“If you provoke them, they will provoke you. If you respect them, they will respect you. With hippos, there are rules,” says Galaxy. He’s referring to the giant mammals that are haphazardly popping their heads out the water, just like the Hungry Hungry Hippos game.

Galaxy is a “poler”. He’s been navigating the Okavango Delta waterways by mokoro (traditional dugout canoe) for over 20 years – something his parents did, too. During the annual flood season, mokoro is the only mode of transport for many locals.

He also partakes in the annual mokoro race, which takes place on 20 October each year and aims to integrate cultural tourism – sharing traditional transportation, art, entertainment and games – with the more popular wildlife tourism. “In Botswana we are proud of tourism,” he tells me as we glide through the reeds past the grunting of the hippos, the dust of the buffalo and the swishing of the distant elephants.

Read the full article on Botswana’s high-quality, low-impact tourism model here.

By Marry Holland for The Independent.

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A tourist in Brazil prepares to take a photo of a sloth being held up for the image. Photograph: Fernando Carniel Machado/World Animal Protection

Research by World Animal Protection in Brazil and Peru has revealed rise in photos with wild animals on Instagram, as well as growing instances of cruelty, and is launching a Wildlife Selfie Code

Some of the Amazon’s most endangered creatures are under threat from the growing trend of tourists taking “wild animal selfies”, according to a new investigation by the charity World Animal Protection released this week.

Selfies with animals has become a trend in recent years, with a 292% increase in the number of images posted to Instagram from 2014 to present. However, behind the scenes animals are kept in cruel conditions with many dying soon after being snatched from their natural habitat.

Read the full article on the ‘Wildlife Selfie Code’ here.

By Will Coldwell for The Guardian.

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Credit: Travindy

Singapore, 11 October 2017 – Mandai Park Holdings (MPH) announced today the appointment of Banyan Tree Holdings (Banyan Tree) as the operator of an eco-friendly resort to be located within the new integrated nature and wildlife destination at Mandai. This partnership marks the debut of the award-winning, Singapore-based hospitality company on home ground after its global success.

Integrated with Mandai’s natural surroundings, it is envisioned the eco-friendly resort will provide an immersive stay close to nature, offering unique experiences that inspire care for biodiversity and sustainable behaviour. It will provide, for the first time, the opportunity for visitors to stay over in a full-service accommodation at the doorstep of Singapore’s wildlife parks. Guests will be able to enjoy and explore the precinct’s array of offerings, including its five wildlife parks, nature-themed indoor attraction and public green spaces.

Read the full article on the new destination in Singapore here.

By Travindy.

 

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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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How to communicate about plastic and the seas around us

World Oceans Day was first ratified at the UN General Assembly on December 5, 2008 when June 8 was designated as the annual day for this celebration. The theme for this year is ‘Our Oceans – Our future’.

Today, for World Oceans Day, we are highlighting ideas about how to communicate effectively with your colleagues and your customers about the massive dangers associated with the accumulation of plastic waste. Sadly, we still have so much plastic in our oceans.

 

  1. Be inspiring

Inspire customers and business partners by showcasing durable and reusable solutions that are healthier for our communities and oceans. Inspire your community by showing people gathering together to clean up beaches. It’s important to personalise your message in order to stir emotions and inspire reactions to this pressing global problem.

 

  1. Show how animals or communities are hurt by plastic

Explain the linkage between marine well-being and plastic pollution. Plastic in our oceans has serious health and economic consequences

 

  1. Be proactive

Start an initiative such as lobbying for a ban on plastic bottles and containers at your local beach or park. Engage your community and encourage your colleagues, friends and neighbours to consider their individual environmental footprints. Community presence not only builds your brand image but it also helps to boost morale within your organisation. Read more about community involvement and going green here.

Visit the website PlasticOceans to learn more about plastic pollution in the oceans.

 

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