Change Starts with U

Ok so it actually starts with ‘C’, but give us a chance to explain!

Over the past week, we’ve had people ask us the same question: what can I do to help? The business of animal attractions is a growing one, and it’s hard to stop it because the demand for it is so high. With more and more people traveling, tourists are looking for things to do, and sadly, animal attractions sit at the top of the list.

While it’ll be difficult to shut down these entertainment venues, we’re hoping that raising awareness of the cruelty that animals have suffered to be a part of them will stick in the minds of tourists, and deter them from visiting these places.

So we’re come up with 3 simple things you can do in support of driving down the demand for these cruel animal attractions!

  1. Do your research before you travel

And by research, we don’t mean go to Tripadvisor and do the top 10 ‘things to do’ in the country. Venture out and find out what you can do as an ethical traveller. We’re not saying you can’t go and see elephants in Thailand, but there are ways to do it that don’t cause harm to the animal. Look for sanctuaries which care for animals and let them live in a more natural habitat. The Elephant Nature Park in Thailand is a good example. They’re a rescue and rehab centre for elephants, and instead of offering rides with elephants, they give you the chance to help bathe the gentle giants, which, if you remember from our previous post, elephants love to do because they absolutely love water!

Find out ways that you can still enjoy interacting with animals that doesn’t involve hurting them. It’s more rewarding to see a wild animal in their natural habitats than paying a ticket to pose with one that has been tortured.

  1. Don’t ‘like’ photos that contain cruel animal attractions, even if they’re posted by your friends/family

Many tourists don’t realise that they’re supporting animal cruelty when they ride an elephant, but you know better than that. ‘Liking’ a photo shows your support. The more likes a post receives, the more people think of it favourably. And then before you know it, your friend who uploaded that photo kissing a dolphin has caused her friend to go visit the attraction and get the exact same photo.

It came out 2 years ago that there was a rising trend in men on Tinder using ‘tiger selfies’ as a way to make their dating profiles seem more attractive, but there’s nothing attractive about a man posing next to an animal in pain (am I right, ladies?) so PLEASE, don’t date the idiot with a tiger selfie.

  1. Tell your friends!

Obviously, this issue isn’t one that’s commonly spoken about. It’s definitely not one that regular people would read up about either. But if you do care, tell somebody about what you know! People learn better when they hear it from somebody they know. And who knows, maybe they’ll tell others, who will tell more people, and as the information keeps spreading, more people will be informed about the issue.

Better yet, know somebody who’s traveling overseas soon? Then tell them about what you’ve found out about this animal tourism industry – inform them of what they’re really paying to see when they buy tickets to an animal attraction, and maybe they’ll decide to go and do something else instead, and you would’ve helped prevent a little less pain from a defenseless wild animal.

Why you shouldn’t be smiling in a ‘Tiger Selfie’

Tiger attractions are a rapidly expanding industry. Whilst ‘ride an elephant’ venues are still very much in demand, over the past 5 years, Thailand has seen a 33% increase in captive tigers, with 830 tigers found in captivity at Thai entertainment venues last year. Lion and tiger cubs are also available to pet in Mexico, and lion cubs are considered a ‘specialty’ in South Africa.

So what actually happens to tigers at these attractions? How do they become ‘safe’ enough for us to approach and take a selfie with, even at times allowing us to hug them? Surely it’s not natural – we’re usually running from tigers!

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(Image taken from Pixabay)

The unfortunate reality is that tiger cubs used in these shows are separated from their mothers 2-3 weeks after birth. These young cubs are especially popular at attractions, with visitors thinking, “they’re just so cute and cuddly!” But tigers are no the same as domesticated cats. These young cubs are mishandled by tourists hundreds of times a day, which can lead to stress and injury for them.

‘Wild animals like lions and tigers have inherent natural behaviours, and exposure to unnatural conditions and human crowds and handling exacerbates their stress,’ says manager of the NSPCA Wildlife Protection Unit, Ainsley Hay.

In research conducted by World Animal Protection in Thailand, 1 in 10 tigers were observed showing behavioural problems, such as repetitive pacing or biting their nails. These behaviours are associated to when animals cannot cope in stressful environments, much like elephants when they pace back and forth, showing how nervous and uncomfortable they are.

In order to ‘teach’ tigers to be submissive, they are punished using pain and fear tactics which are used to stop aggressive or unwanted behaviour by their ‘trainers’. WAP reported an incident where starvation was used to punish tigers when they made a ‘mistake’ to deter them from doing it again.

Tigers are also commonly housed in small concrete cages or barren enclosures with limited access to fresh water. WAP reports that 50% of observed tigers in their study were living in cages with less than 20m2 to move around, a vast contrast to the 16-32km they would roam in a single night in their natural, wild habitats.

So the next time you think you want to take a ‘cool’ photo hugging a tiger, or lying down next to it, please think to yourself: is this natural? What made it possible for me to this?

Selfish Selfies

We see animal selfies all the time – some with our pets, and others with more exotic animals, like tigers. Unfortunately, what we don’t see is what goes on behind the lens to these wild animals.

In a survey by World Animal Protection (who we’ve mentioned about a gazillion times here at FAA, they’re basically our heroes), they found that 37% of tourists questioned in Thailand said they wanted to take a ride on an elephant, 25% wanted a tiger selfie, BUT 85% said they wouldn’t want to do anything if it meant the animal had to suffer.

Jan Schmidt-Burbach, a Bangkok-based adviser at WAP, said that the reason for this contradiction in numbers is that tourists only spend on average 15 minutes with the animal, and that “the cruelty is hidden from them”.

He’s absolutely right though. Often times, painful devices such as nails, metal hooks and knives are used to inflict harm onto the animals in order to direct them to perfect tricks, which we’ll go into deeper detail with our next post.

“We see an increase in demand for wildlife entertainment, and there’s limited transparency on what goes on behind the scene and how those venues are profiting from the animals.”

As well as being a risk to wildlife, tourists often put themselves at risk just to take a photo with these wild animals. Before the closure of Tiger Temple earlier this year, the popular tourist attraction were recorded to having up to 60 incidents a year (of varying severity) of captive tigers mauling tourists or volunteers.

Chris Pitt from Care for the Wild International said that, “people want to copy the photos they’ve seen online, which leads to more animal suffering’.