Wildlife encounters are one of the most exciting and memorable experiences you can have, but your safety and the animal’s welfare should be your highest priority.
Here are some tips on how to have an exhilarating and responsible wildlife experience:
- If you can, visit animals in the wild or in sanctuaries where they are kept in the most natural conditions possible. If you’re looking for a more affordable option such as a zoo, do some research on the establishment’s stance on animal welfare before you purchase a ticket.
- Don’t use animals as photo props. Critters such as the slow loris are adorable, but they get distressed when held; therefore, no matter how cute or seemingly harmless, avoid the urge to treat wild animals as cuddly toys.
- Check if your tour operator has taken adequate measures to ensure safety for you and the wildlife. You can reduce uncertainty by booking tours through tour operators that have special accreditations, that show they follow sustainable tourism practices, such as PATA members Khiri and Buffalo Tours.
- Appreciate animals just as they are and respect them. Some attractions may have your favourite creatures behaving in a way they normally wouldn’t in the wild. It’s best to avoid supporting such activities, as it is difficult to access whether the training methods used to tame the animals are responsible or not.
- Be careful with what you decide to bring home as a souvenir. Although certain items may look incredibly cool and exotic, consider the ramifications of making that purchase. Here’s a guide on what kind of souvenirs to avoid while travelling.
- As a tour operator, get involved in programmes such as the Captive Elephant Initiative/Elephant Camp Animal Welfare and Sustainability Standard and Assessment Initiative. Elephants are emblematic in Asia; they are also a major tourist attraction and a source of income for locals. As such, elephant camps must be managed responsibly.
Spend sustainably because your refusal to engage in potentially dubious activities will bring down the business that profits at the expense of wildlife.
For more background information on the role of elephants in Asia and animal welfare, visit the links below:
- How to be a Responsible Traveler when Visiting an Elephant Attraction in the Asia Pacific Region
- The Role of Elephants in Asian Cultures and Communities
- Perspective: Animals in Entertainment
If you’d like a more thorough understanding of animal welfare in tourism, check out ABTA’s Animal Welfare Guidelines.