We so get it! Holidays are about trying new things, exploring new cultures, and experiencing or seeing things never seen or done before. But what we see is not always what we get.
Here at Trailblazers Travel, we specialise in responsible, sustainable and eco tourism. We believe responsible travel is not just about treating the places and the local people well, but the environment and all its living things too. And when it comes to animals and seeing animal attractions while on holiday, this is what people don’t realise: what we are entertained by may belie a world of sheer cruelty.
Who doesn’t love a dancing monkey? But hold on, before you put on your tapping shoes to dance with it, you may want to poke around and understand what’s involved in subjecting a monkey to dance. Upon discovering the truth, we’re guessing you’ll no longer feel so in love with the idea of dancing monkeys, and may even throw your dancing shoes to the floor in disgust!
Here, in no particular order, are 5 of the cruellest animal attractions that wildlife tourism involves. So, the next time you go on holiday and see one of these attractions on offer, please be a responsible tourist, do your due diligence and discovery, and if you find practices that treat animals inhumanely, say a loud and firm “no thank you very much”!
Found in places like Thailand and other parts of Asia, Mexico and Argentina, it is well known that the tigers at many entertainment venues endure lifelong suffering, often chained and confined in cages and subjected to harsh training processes. The business of taking selfies with tiger cubs is no different. This practice sees tiger cubs being separated from their mothers at an early age and often kept chained or in small cages with concrete floors – all for the sake of “cool” Instagram posts!
A secret investigation by World Animal Protection has uncovered some horrifying facts about the tiger selfie trade, including:
Another tourist attraction that involves big cats, this is commonly seen in South Africa, and is similar to the use of tiger cubs for selfies in that lion cubs as young as one week old are “kidnapped” from their mothers and forced to pose for photos with tourists. These lion cubs are often mistreated, kept in barren cages and fed a very poor diet. Once they are too old to be picked up and hugged, many of them are then trained and forced to “walk” with tourists, sometimes on leads.
That’s not the end of it. Many of these same lions that have been used as props for tourist photos and then forced to walk with tourists are later sold into the canned trophy hunting industry, which means they are released into enclosures where it is very easy for a hunter to kill them. And once killed, their body parts are sometimes sold into the illegal wildlife trade.
Did you know? Elephants that are offered to tourists for riding have undergone a training process known as “the crush”. If you think that sounds bad, it is. As part of “the crush”, these elephants in training are restrained in small cages or tied up tightly with ropes and chains to “teach” them to move only when commanded.
In order to break their spirit and control them, baby elephants that have been taken from their mothers, and even those elephants that are grown, are beaten with wooden battens or bullhooks, which is a heavy weapon with a sharp, steel hook on the end. This often causes serious injuries, including infected sores and cuts that go untreated.
Even though by nature elephants are meant to roam with their families over vast distances, captive elephants used for riding are usually kept tightly chained and separated from their friends and family.
The consequences of these practices are far-reaching, harming not only the elephants themselves, who sometimes snap and rampage, but also putting the tourists who ride them at risk. For example, in 2016, a British tourist was killed after he was thrown from an elephant that he was riding in Thailand. And while one of the main tourist hubs for riding elephants is Thailand, this is becoming increasingly common in other Asian countries and in southern Africa as well.
This is hardly a new practice, and if you have ever been to tourist attractions such as SeaWorld you might have seen dolphins performing there. Millions of tourists pay big bucks for the experience of seeing dolphins up close, watching them perform, and even swimming with them, but they often don’t realise the cruelty that is involved in making the experience happen.
For aquariums to get these beautiful creatures, dolphins are often chased down in the wild by boats and forcibly hauled on-board or caught in nets. The stress of being taken from their pods and kept under such abnormal conditions mean that many die during transportation to their destinations!
Once at an aquarium, they are kept in spaces not much bigger than a big swimming pool – imagine spending the rest of your life like that! This is not only completely unnatural for them, but also results in various ailments including irritation from the chlorine that is used, sunburn, and stress related illnesses such as heart attacks and gastric ulcers.
Even worse, in order to make the most of the demand for dolphins, some female dolphins in captivity are repeatedly impregnated, sometimes by their own fathers. Many of these baby dolphins do not survive, while those that do are frequently shipped to multiple locations.
Particularly in countries such as Thailand and Indonesia, the practice of training (and exploiting) dancing monkeys is one of the cruellest animal attractions. While many species of primates are used for this around the world, macaques are among the most common.
To make these monkeys perform, young macaques are treated aggressively and cruelly to inflict pain and force them to walk, behave and appear more human-like. They are forced to learn tricks and to dance for groups of tourists, and many of them are also dressed up in various costumes.
When they’re not performing, these dancing monkeys are kept in horrible conditions – often chained in small, uncomfortable cages or attached to objects on short chains so that they can’t move or escape. These chains are also never taken off or changed, so as a macaque grows, the chain often becomes embedded in its skin, causing infections and disease.
The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has warned Australian travellers about visiting such attractions, and in fact encourages tourists to make informed, animal friendly choices while holidaying.
So, next time you see an animal attraction where animals are taken out of their natural habitat and subjected to unnatural acts, don’t hesitate to ask questions, do some research and discovery, and find out more behind the process to make them that way. After all, travelling is best done when we can go to sleep after a day of fun, adventure and new perspectives, knowing that our enjoyment has not come at the suffering of another human being or creature.
Trailblazers Travel is your eco travel expert, providing ethical, responsible and sustainable holidays and safari experiences including South Africa tours, Cape Town tours, Tanzania tours, Serengeti safaris, Zanzibar tours, Victoria Falls tours, Rwanda tours, India tours and Borneo tours. Browse our website for more information or get in touch with us today. We are against animal cruelty and the exploitation of animals for tourism purposes! Read more on our stance on animal tourism and welfare on our FAQ’s page.