Planning a vacation? Perhaps you are looking forward to visiting a different country and experience cultures, music and food like you have never before. Maybe you want to go to a museum, or even be a daredevil for a day and try something outrageous like bungee jumping or skydiving. Maybe you heard about an nature tour with dolphin encounters or elephant rides, and it was sold to you as a part of a region’s “unique cultural experience.” For a high price, these wild animals can bring wonder and amazement to tourists, but the price they pay in exploitation is far greater than your money’s worth. TripAdvisor is taking a stand.
Experts, activists and animal lovers alike know the use of wild animals for these “fun” activities is unethical, inhumane and immoral. With growing support in the international community against the use of wild animals, the activities many partake in while traveling are beginning to change. The momentum is continuing to expand, as TripAdvisor – one of the largest travel sites on the internet, famous for being a one-stop-shop for tourists looking for travel recommendations, ratings for accommodations, and tourist experiences – has promised to stop selling elephant rides and other animal experiences on its website that do not meet its animal welfare standards.
Websites such as TripAdvisor had been under pressure from activists and organizations to declare such a ban for quite some time. Such a ban will educate people on the inherent value these beautiful creatures possess. The hope is that other big companies similar to TripAdvisor will follow suit. By eliminating the demand for these industries, it is possible that these animals can be left to be wild and free, as they should be.
The Global Tourism Council is in the beginning phases of setting standards on the sustainability of ecotourism destinations. Ecotourism is different from nature tourism because it allows people to experience the environment without disturbing it, and a vast majority of the profits earned go back into conservation efforts to preserve the natural heritage of that area. As a responsible traveler you should support those travel destinations where locals are involved in tourism, there is protection and preservation of the landscape, and where animals can be seen from a distance in their natural surroundings and appreciated.
Many countries such as Costa-Rica, Mexico, Small Island Nations and others are adopting or perfecting/expanding ecotourism models. In Isla Holbox, Mexico, there used to be a thriving whale shark hunting industry. This has now been converted into a peaceful and serene “swim with the whale sharks” destination. This is non-intrusive and helps protect the species’ well-being in the future.
As a general rule, do your research the next time you decide to go to an exotic destination, and choose your activities wisely! Make sure that while you are having fun, it is not at the expense of some other creature’s suffering. Appreciating wildlife and nature is a necessary part of being human, but only respectfully and with the idea that others should be able to experience the same in the future.