Thailand was a breaking point for me when I knew that I can’t stop myself from sharing animal suffering and animal abuse around the world. First of all, when our driver was driving to our hotel we asked him what should we do in Phuket? He just gave us a laminated paper with main activities for tourists in Phuket, it was full of animal entertainment… Riding an elephant, tigers shows, pose with monkeys, snakes show and etc. we were horrified. But the view which triggered me the most was two days after when I stopped for gas for my scooter and I saw an elephant tied to a tree. It was still a baby elephant and his owner was hitting him with a stick while tourists were filming it. I don’t know how to unsee that. I felt hopeless, shocked and at that time I knew that I have to speak up.
That’s why I contributed with other travel bloggers who also experienced animal abuse while traveling and wanted to share their stories. Some of them tried the animal entertainment themselves just because they didn’t realize at that time that it was a bad thing. That’s why we are sharing to spread the message to stop tourism animal abuse
Irresponsible animal tourism Kinabatangan River
One of the most incredible things to do in Malaysian Borneo is to visit the Kinabatangan River area and see the pygmy elephants of Borneo. These baby-faced elephants have oversized ears, big bellies and ground dragging tails. There are only around 1500 of these left in the world. And you can see them on the riverbanks of the Kinabatangan River. Tours take place by boat and should follow the general rules of keeping distance and not disturbing the elephants.
However, many overzealous guides nudge their boats up to the riverbank so that their visitors can get “better” photos and the guides get better tips. Those boats who follow the rules and stay out of the way end up taking photos of the boats close to the riverbank rather than the elephants. It’s a horrid experience for the elephants – many of them are young and don’t know any better and this close human contact socializes them in a way that is detrimental to their ongoing survival. Irresponsible guides and tourists put the future of these endangered animals into question. Be sure to go with a responsible company and if you see injustice for the animals call it out – and lets together stop these reckless practices.
Contributed by Sarah & Nigel from A Social Nomad
Going to a dolphinarium to see a dolphins’ show and swimming with dolphins is one of the most irresponsible things a traveler can possibly do. Many people still don’t seem to know that how these animals are treated and threatened so that they perform and obey to their trainers.
Dolphins get punished if they don’t behave the way the trainers want – and they have to perform many times throughout the day. Another thing to know is that pools where dolphins are kept aren’t nearly as deep as the environment where dolphins would choose to live, with the result that, spending most of their time close to surface to perform and exposed to sunlight, their skin burns.
What’s important to understand is that dolphins – in fact, animals in general – would never chose to live in captivity over freedom. They are not pets. Yes – they are curious, friendly animals that would come close to boats and people out of curiosity (it happened in September in Sardinia, and locals who were at the beach managed to capture a video that quickly went viral). But they need the depth of ocean waters to survive, something a tank can never replace.
Contributed by Claudia Tavani from My Adventures Across The World
Why Elephant Washing is Cruel
Most animal lovers know that elephant riding is cruel and harmful to elephants. But did you know that bathing or washing elephants is unethical too? We must admit that we made that mistake as well. We assumed that if an elephant sanctuary offered washing instead of riding, that it was an ethical activity. Little did we know that even bathing elephants was considered irresponsible.
While washing elephants itself isn’t harmful, it’s the process to get the elephants to go against their natural instinct to avoid humans that’s often unethical and cruel.
Unethical elephant trainers and operators often use the process called ‘The Crush’ to establish dominance over elephants. It’s an extremely cruel process where they deliberately inflict emotional and physical trauma on elephants to force them into submission. This horrible process is often done while the elephants are still young. Not only are they restrained, starved and beaten, they’re often also isolated from other elephants to intensify the emotional trauma.
This type of torture can last from a few days to more than a week before the elephant is ‘broken’. It may seem like a short time in the lifespan of an elephant, but it leaves deep and lasting scars in an animal as emotional and empathic as the elephant. Read 7 Ways to Know You’re Visiting an Ethical Elephant Sanctuary for more helpful tips.
Contributed by: Chloe & Michael from Nomad And In Love Adventure Travel Blog
Elephant Parade in Luang Prabang, Laos
In many South-East Asian countries, New Year falls in April and is most memorable for its celebration of water. Visiting during this time means getting incredibly wet as countries host huge water fights which attract plenty of foreign tourists. In Laos, the New Year festival is known as Pi Mai and the city of Luang Prabang is the place to be. Unfortunately, the festivities are more than just water-based.
One of Laos’ New Year traditions is an early morning elephant parade down Luang Prabang’s main street. This was not something we wanted to see during our visit but we decided it would be a good idea to document it. For the parade, eight elephants are ridden from one end of the street to the other to reach the temple at the far end.
Along the route, there is no crowd control meaning bystanders are free and actually encouraged to walk alongside the elephants. Countless visitors would touch the elephants, walk in front of them and take selfies with them. Naturally, this appeared to be very stressful for the elephants and they clearly didn’t look happy.
To keep the elephants from causing trouble or acting on the stress of being amongst the dense crowds, their handlers would beat and kick them to keep them going in the right direction. The handlers all carried a sheathed weapon which they would use in a threatening way. Whilst riding the elephants, the handlers would kick them behind the ears when they wanted them to walk faster or in a certain direction.
The parade is just one of the reasons why I won’t want to go back to Laos and was nothing less than heartbreaking to see such beautiful animals being used for such pointless entertainment. Although there are more ethical elephant sanctuaries opening up in Asia, it is so shocking to see that these traditions still continue and are enjoyed by locals and tourists.
Contributed by Oli from Not Brits Abroad
Whale shark watching in the Philippines
If you search for bucket list things to do in the Philippines, you’ll probably come across whale shark watching in Oslob, Cebu. The whale shark tourism is big and it attracts hundreds of visitors a day. During the activity, you can swim with the whale sharks in the ocean and take photos with them.
What a lot of people know is that this is actually harmful to the whale sharks. The locals feed the whale sharks regularly, so the whale sharks have come to rely on humans for food. This is actually why you sighting is guaranteed all year round. This poses a lot of problem for whale sharks, including malnutrition and harm from bumping or hitting into people in the water. In addition, it also affects their breeding pattern because instead of migrating to other locations, they stay in a specific beach area. In fact, there are less observed whale sharks in other places in the country.
That saying, there are alternative locations for whale shark watching which is more in line with ecotourism. Specifically, places like Sorsogon and Leyte also offer the chance to see the whale sharks in the wild. This is seasonal since it follows the whale sharks’ migration. The activity includes going on a boat ride where spotters will look out for whale sharks and then you can swim with them in a safe distance.
So if you decide to visit the Philippines, it’s best to do proper research and avoid the whale shark watching in Oslob, Cebu.
Contributed by Katherine from Tara Lets Anywhere
Taking Selfies with Wild Animals
It may be tempting to have your photo taken with an exotic wild animal, especially in this Instagram era we’re living in, where everyone is trying to outdo each other with unique travel photos. But these animals belong in their natural habitat, living wild and free, not chained up next to a queue of tourists waiting to pose with them. In addition to being held captive for tourists’ entertainment, these animals are also at risk of catching diseases from the many humans who come in close contact with them. And in the case of dangerous animals, such as lions or tigers, they’ve likely been drugged so that they will remain passive and won’t attack the tourists posing for selfies with them.
Often, tourist attractions that offer animal selfies claim to be involved in conservation work, when the reality is that they are doing much more harm than good. One of the most notorious cases of this is the “tiger temple” in Thailand. My husband and I visited this temple after watching a documentary film about an idyllic Buddhist temple where the monks took care of tigers and other animals they had rescued. When we visited, it didn’t seem much like a temple at all, and we were quite put off by what felt like a purely money-making venture. But we didn’t know even half of the story.
Years later, police raided the “temple” following numerous complaints and found dismembered tiger body parts and even the whole bodies of tiger cubs and fetuses being kept inside freezers. Presumably, the staff at the “temple” had been illegally trafficking tiger parts for their use in Chinese medicine. While that particular temple has been shut down, sadly there are many other operations like it that are still exploiting animals and luring unsuspecting tourists into funding this exploitation. If you want to be an animal-friendly tourist, avoid any attraction that offers animal selfies, even if they appear on the service to be doing good work.
Contributed by Wendy Werneth of The Nomadic Vegan
Camels have always been important to the survival of mankind in the desert, thanks to their ability to carry heavy loads and survive in harsh environments. Because of this, camels are very much associated with the desert and the Middle East, making them high on tourist bucket lists when travelling to this part of the world.
The problem, though, is that camel riding is unethical.
Like the majority of animals used in the tourism industry, camels are typically overworked, treated poorly and all-round exploited.
Across much of the Middle East, there are next to no welfare regulations in place, and many camel owners do not have the knowledge or resources to provide adequate care to their camel. Because of this, their basic needs are not always met.
I’ve seen camels being cruelly controlled with hooks, pegs, or ropes threaded through the skin of their nostril. Sometimes, metal straps are placed around the camel’s head to ensure he keeps his head up, which can cause friction and painful wounds once the camel gives in to the metal strapping.
And don’t forget: no animal is born ready to be ridden. They must be trained, and this “training” usually involves violence. Most travelers are clued up on the fact that elephant riding is cruel – why would camel riding be any different?
Contributed by Lauren from The Planet Edit
Feeding wild animals
You see a cute squirrel or chipmunk and think nothing of offering it a piece of your protein bar so it comes and eats out of your hand. Or you’re camping around bears and think nothing of leaving all of your food out instead of storing it in the bear lockers provided at camp. But those actions have a crippling effect on wildlife and keeping them wild.
These animals learn to become dependent on humans for food, and human food isn’t food for animals. Every animal adapted to each the optimize food in their environment, and human food isn’t it.
I’ve hiked in areas like Yosemite and Mt. Whitney where chipmunks and marmots will chew through $400 tents and backpacks for the food inside. Not only do I not want my expensive hiking and backpacking gear destroyed, instead of spreading out throughout the wilderness, these animals now crowd to more popular trails where they know visitors will feed them. They lose their fear of humans, which poses a safety risk for us and for the animals.
This also causes crowding and competition among the animals, which creates unnatural conditions that increase the chances of fighting and injury among wildlife. It also increases the spread of disease. When wildlife is spread out, the chances of the disease spreading throughout the area are reduced compared to if they’re clustered together. If you’re feeding them, you risk getting bit and that disease transferring to you.
Then there is also the safety regarding larger animals like bears.
Bears typically don’t attack humans. But when bears start getting into human food, they start associating humans with food. Human food is tasty, it’s high in calories, salt, and sugar. So bears start wanting more. That’s when they become aggressive towards humans. That’s when they start breaking into cars and attacking humans. When a bear even charges at a human, that bear and its cubs must be put down. That bear and those cubs lost their lives because people didn’t store their food properly.
We can co-exist with wildlife in nature, we just need to be respectful of their home and stop feeding wildlife. Campgrounds have food storage lockers and if you’re backpacking bring a bear canister to store all your scented items in. If you have any concerns, follow the directions that local rangers recommend for proper food storage.
Next time you see a squirrel or any animal run up to you, please don’t feed it.
Contributed by Jenny from Campsite Vibes
If you have a story to tell about tourism animal abuse contact me firstname.lastname@example.org