5 Top Tips to ensure you only participate in animal friendly tourism

Posted on 20/02/2020 by Guest Blogger

This is a guest article by our ambassador for animals and award-winning travel blogger Binny Shah-Patel

Wildlife tourism and visiting animal attractions on holiday has always been popular. Most people’s Bucket Lists at some point will feature some sort of exotic animal-related activity, whether it is swimming with dolphins or riding an elephant.

As much as these sound like the experiences of a lifetime they actually mean a lifetime of misery for the animals involved, which is the dark side of it all. When travelling, it is important to ensure that any activities or excursions you book do not involve the use of captive animals or exploit wildlife in any way.

This is something I feel really strongly about, especially the use of animals for entertainment, performances or excursions as a form of tourist attraction. We must be kinder in the way that we treat and respect animals, especially as they do not have a voice, and bear this in mind when travelling abroad as a tourist.

Here are my 5 top tips to ensure that you only participate in animal-friendly tourism:

1. Remember that the best type of animal encounter is a wild one and one of the best ways to experience seeing wildlife is to go on a safari and see animals in their natural habitat where they are able to exhibit natural behaviours. In some National parks the fees for the parks actually go towards conservation. Most parks also have measures in place to prevent poaching, with game rangers employed to protect the animals.

2. Elephants are utterly adorable and it is probably everyone’s wish to see these magnificent animals up close. However, never participate in an activity which involves you riding or touching elephants. Some places pretend to be sanctuaries but you must do your research beforehand and only visit and support animal sanctuaries and shelters whose objectives are in the animals’ best interests. For example, if they are working on rehabilitating them to be eventually released back into the wild.

A good wildlife selfie: a man poses for a photo and an elephant is visible in the background, undisturbed, several meters behind.

Image: good example - a responsible tourist poses for a photo with an elephant in the background, several meters behind and undisturbed.

3. Never participate in either lion cub petting or lion walking experiences. In many cases the lions are bred for the ‘Canned Lion Hunting’ industry and will eventually be shot by hunters.

A wild lion resting in Ngorongoro Crater National Park, Tanzania. His eyes are closed and the wind is blowing through his mane.

Image: a wild lion resting Ngorongoro Crater National Park, Tanzania.

4. Don't take a wildlife selfie especially if it involves the animal being held, hugged, drugged or restrained. It is just not worth the cruelty to get that "perfect shot' for the gram. This can range from tiger selfies to even holding snakes around your neck. The back story to why you are able to interact with these wild animals in this way without the fear of them attacking you is that they have been trained in cruel ways or declawed, had their teeth removed or beaten to ensure that they don’t pose a danger to you. They are also kept in terrible conditions.

A sloth hanging from a branch among luscious vegetation

Image: a sloth hangs from a branch among luscious green leaves. Sloths are often exploited for profut through tourist selfies.

5. Never choose to interact with or swim with captive dolphins or sea lions at a marine park. This really negatively impacts them, who are not used to being confined to small swimming spaces compared to the wide ocean, and are not able to be social with other sea life in a natural way.

Two wild bottlenose dolphins swim freely in the ocean

Image: wild dolphins swimming freely in the ocean.

Binny Shah-Patel is a multi-award-winning food and travel writer, and a champion for animal-friendly tourism. To get her latest tips for unforgettable holidays, follow her on Instagram or Twitter.

Award-winning writer Binny Shah-Patel kneeling on the ground, petting a fluffy white dog. She is wearing a pink dress and she's smiling.

Image: Binny with one of her beloved pets, Ashley.