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?

Think Twice Before Your Next Holiday Selfie!

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“If you can hug it, ride it, or take a selfie with it in a close encounter, chances are that animal has been suffering and been subject to cruelty” – Nicole Beynon, WAP head of campaigns told the ABC.

So now that we’ve established that there is something cruel going on behind the scenes of these animal attractions, it’s time for us to ask you a question: are you actually funding the problem?

We’re not trying to point fingers. But we do want you to have a long, hard think about that time you might have paid to go and see an animal show. Yes, that includes the elephant show in Thailand you saw that one time on your holiday. Sorry to say, but your hard earned Aussie cash most likely went to hurting the poor animal.

There’s absolutely no judgment here – we’re just trying to spread the information. After all, many visitors of these animal attractions do so because of reviews and ratings they’ve seen online, for example on TripAdvisor. This billion dollar company’s influence over the tourism industry is insane, just Google “things to do in [insert country here]” and you’ll immediately stumble across it. However, it continues to promote and sell tickets (via their subsidiary, Viator) to some of the world’s cruelest wildlife entertainment attractions.

World Animal Protection have set up a petition to call for TripAdvisor to stop the promoting these attractions through their ticket sales and popularity indexes, and introduce a program to help travellers make more informed choices.

Since WAP released their findings on harmful animal tourism, over 100 travel companies worldwide have agreed to stop offering tours to venues with elephant rides and shows. This includes several Australian companies such as Adventure Tours Australia, APT and Intrepid Travel (hats off to you guys!).

So next time you’re trying to think of what to do on your next holiday, we’re begging you to stay off TripAdvisor and search a little bit deeper on Google for some friendly, ethical fun!

Do your research and you’ll be doing no harm, to humans as well as animals.