For the report, researchers from the University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) examined 24 different types of wildlife tourist attractions and found 75 percent of them are having a negative impact on wildlife by either harming individual animals or exploiting species at risk of extinction in the wild.
Some of the welfare abuses include “very young animals being taken from their mothers, beaten and abused during training to ensure they are passive enough to give rides, perform tricks or pose for holiday ‘selfies’ with tourists.”
It gets worse. After examining data from TripAdvisor, the world’s largest tourist review site, they found an incredible lack of public awareness about how harmful these venues can be, with a startling 80 percent of people leaving good reviews for attractions that are bad for animals.
“It’s clear that thousands of tourists are visiting wildlife attractions, unaware of the abuse wild animals’ face behind the scenes,” said Neil D’Cruze, Head of Wildlife Research. “As well as the cruelty to animals, there is also the very real danger to tourists, as we saw earlier this week with the very sad death of British tourist, Gareth Crowe, in Thailand.”
Crowe was thrown by an elephant while on a trek in Thailand. Not surprisingly, riding elephants was rated as the worst attraction for animals. In all, the top ten list includes:
1. Riding Elephants
2. Taking Tiger Selfies
3. Walking with Lions
4. Visiting Bear Parks
5. Holding Sea Turtles
6. Performing Dolphins
7. Dancing Monkeys
8. Touring Civet Coffee Plantations
9. Charming Snakes and Kissing Cobras
10. Farming Crocodiles
While three out of four tourist attractions are hurting wildlife, researchers also found that there are facilities that are benefiting them by offering species like bears and orangutans sanctuary and educating visitors about them and the threats they face in the wild.
World Animal Protection hopes that by raising awareness about the behind-the-scenes cruelty involved at many destinations, along with getting the travel industry and companies like TripAdviser to be part of the solution, we can end the unnecessary suffering of wild animals being used for profit and entertainment.
“We need to stop the demand for elephant rides and shows, hugs and selfies with tigers and lions by exposing the hidden suffering behind wildlife attractions. If you can ride it, hug it or have a selfie with a wild animal, then you can be sure it is cruel. Vote with your feet and don’t go,” said D’Cruze.
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