No matter what type of winter vacation you have planned, whether you’re escaping the cold or embracing it, be sure to keep it ethical and animal-friendly. Here is Your Animal-Friendly Spring Break Travel Guide.
World Animal Protection estimates around 110 million people worldwide visit cruel wildlife tourist attractions (WTA) annually. It has also been estimated that WTAs constitute 20-40% of global tourism. You can help break the cycle of abuse endured by more than 550,000 animals caught in the entertainment industry. By spending your tourist dollars wisely – on responsible wildlife watching or in genuine rescue centres – you can also help provide local communities with vital sources of income that demonstrate the need for animal-friendly experiences.
Many species have been brutally poached from the wild or bred in captivity for animal tourism, including elephants, big cats, sloths, monkeys, and reptiles. Here are the top 10 cruelest types of animal attractions to avoid when planning your trip:
- Riding elephants
- Tiger selfies
- Walking with lions
- Visiting bear parks
- Holding sea turtles
- Dolphin performances
- Monkeys dancing
- Touring civet coffee plantations
- Charming Snakes and kissing cobras
- Farming crocodiles
Remember: if you can ride, hug or take a selfie with a wild animal, it’s most likely a cruel venue.
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So where should you spend your tourist dollars? When choosing animal-friendly venues, check out this checklist put together by World Animal Protection so you can be sure you’re not contributing to animal suffering.
Here are three animal-friendly tourist spots you can feel good about visiting:
Happy Elephant Valley in Chiang Mai, Thailand (soon to reopen under the name ChangChill)
Happy Elephant Valley previously allowed tourists to ride, bathe and take selfies with elephants. However, with World Animal Protection’s help, they decided to transition to an elephant-friendly park—the first of its kind. Many of the elephants have been brought in from the logging industry and have suffered a cruel and intensive training process to become submissive. The transition will see the elephants able to behave as naturally as possible, freely roam in the valley, graze and bathe in rivers as tourists experience these wonders, standing at a safe distance. Did you know that elephants in the wild play together all their lives?
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Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF): Samboja Lestari Eco-Lodge in Indonesia
BOSF is a leading orangutan rescue organization that takes in and cares for orangutans who have lost their habitat, been orphaned in the wild, used in the entertainment industry, or kept illegally as pets. BOSF’s Samboja Lestari site provides a home for some of these orangutans. Many live freely on seven designated man-made islands or Forest Schools. Tourists can stay at BOSF’s Samboja Lestari Eco-lodge nestled in a 1,850 hectare reserve of regenerating rainforest.
Asociatia Milioane de Prieteni (AMP) Romanian bear sanctuary, partner sanctuary of World Animal Protection
In Romania, bears were once caught as cubs and illegally kept in small barren cages in venues such as restaurants and gas stations to attract and entertain customers. The Romanian Bear Sanctuary is a safe haven for former captive bears used for entertainment. The sanctuary is currently home to 82 bears in large forested enclosures of around 30 hectares. There are hibernation dens, large freshwater pools, hundreds of trees and lush natural vegetation. Because it mimics the wild as much as possible bears are free to behave naturally. Well-informed guides take groups of tourists around the sanctuary to view the bears.
Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in California, USA
PAWS wildlife sanctuaries are home to a variety of rescued animals who have been abused, neglected, or retired; many of the animals are rescued from the entertainment industry, or from a captive life as an exotic pet. They provide peaceful and enriched habitats to the animals, including Asian and African elephants, big cats, and bears, and they offer cruelty-free animal tourism experiences. You can go on a picnic lunch within view of the elephants, and visit the habitat areas of the rescued big cats and bears.
When you keep your trips animal-friendly, you support genuine sanctuaries and ethical businesses that are giving the animals a life worth living and help us shift demand away from cruel wildlife tourism. Click here to sign World Animal Protection’s animal-friendly travel pledge.