These Are the 10 Worst Tourist Attractions for Wildlife Around the World

Millions of vacationers around the world are continuing to enjoy encounters with wild animals, but they’re also unwittingly perpetuating cruelty to wildlife.

According to a new report released by World Animal Protection, an estimated 550,000 animals are being used by irresponsible tourist operations around the globe.

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.

For more info on how to help, check out World Animal Protection’s Wildlife – Not Entertainers campaign and its animal-friendly tourism guide.


Photo credit: Thinkstock


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Muff-Anne York-Haley


Mona Pietsch
Mona Pietsch2 years ago

Petition signed

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 years ago

I'm sure they aren't all bad.

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla3 years ago

And marine animals, like whales and dolphins... Sharing everywhere

Terre P.
Terre P3 years ago

Some of the animal refuge places are decent and they limit exposure of the animals to humans. Wolfhaven in Washington State is one of those. But the majority of places using animals as tourist attractions are dreadful and I refuse to go to them. I never liked circuses when growing up and I understood why later on.

Angie P.
Angie P3 years ago

And to think that some of these animals never get a break and have to work or perform day in and day out. Even humans get sick and get days off, and need vacations. I doubt many of these animals every get a break. Wish tourist would get some common sense and put themselves in the place of the animals and have a bit of empathy. If the tourist and spectators don't come, all this would eventually stop.

Teresa W.
Teresa W3 years ago

Thank you. I'm not going there anyway.

Veronica Danie
.3 years ago

Cathy B.
Cathy B3 years ago

Thank you for sharing!