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News Article

Tourism Concern report: Animals in Tourism

Report launch at the House of Commons

A new report on Animals in Tourism was launched lasat night at the House of Commons in London by Steve Reed MO. The report from Tourism Concern looks at the interactions between tourism and wild animals, looking at the ethics of wildlife attractions, and how to identify best practice. Among the facts listed in the report are the shocking statistics that 75% of wildlife tourist attractions have a negative impact on animals, a quarter of all elephants on earth are now held in captivity, and that there are more captive tigers in the U.S. alone than in the wild.

In many tourism destinations opportunities to view or interact with wildlife are readily available and are very popular with a large number of consumers. These vary from country to country, with each destination having its own legal and cultural attitudes to animal welfare. Animals can be part of festivals, used as street entertainment, in captivity or viewed in the wild. Animals are often intrinsically linked to the livelihoods of local communities – whether directly, such as mahouts or snake charmers or indirectly, such as safaris hosted on indigenous people’s land.

Even well-managed animal tourism such as gorilla trekking, have some negative impacts on the animals. These must be weighed against the income generated from tourism, without which many of these conservation projects would fail. That is why tourists need the information to make informed and better choices when engaging with animals via tourism.

Wildlife tourism accounts for between 20% and 40% of all global tourism with 3.6 million visitors around the world; a figure that is set to increase. Yet, many of these visits have negative consequences for the animals involved. The new report presents findings from desk-based research, which sought to address the following questions:

  • What are wildlife attractions?
  • What are the ethics of wildlife attractions?
  • Is it possible to identify best practice in wildlife attractions?

Wildlife attractions are very diverse, although they can broadly be grouped into five distinct categories.

1. Interactions with captive animals (zoos, elephant trekking);
2. Sanctuaries (whose main purpose is to protect wild animals)
3. Wildlife farms where tourists observe animals bred for another purpose (such as crocodile farms);
4. Street performances (such as snake charming);
5. Wild attractions such as gorilla trekking.

The report judges animal welfare based on five freedoms: freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury and disease; freedom to behave normally; and freedom from fear and distress.

Conservation scores were also given to different types of atrractions, using information about where the animals were sourced from, together with any benefits to education or habitat protection.

Sanctuaries came out of the analysis with broadly positive scores in both welfare and conservation; while captive interactions came out as the worst. Of the 24 attractions investigated, only five had positives for both conservation and welfare (all of which were sanctuaries). Of the remaining 19, only a further five attractions had positive scores for conservation (including gorilla trekking, lion encounters, sea turtle farms, crocodile farms and gibbon watching). However, four out of these five had negative welfare scores (gorilla trekking, sea turtle farms, crocodile farms and lion encounters).

The researchers estimate that between 230,000 and 550,000 animals are being held in attractions that have a detrimental effect on their welfare. In contrast, only 1,500 to 13,000 animals are held in attractions that were likely to have beneficial effects on welfare and conservation. When investigating the comments from tourists and visitors about these attractions on TripAdvisor, 80% of visitors did not recognise or respond to the welfare status of the animals.

The report gives recommendations to tourists about what to look for in different types of attractions, and what attractions should be avoided. On the list to steer clear of are any activities including riding or swimming with captive wild animals, petting or holding wild animals, keeping them on a chain or leash, or watching wild animals perform tricks, dance or play sport. Captive animals should not be used as photographic props, or trained to perform ‘humanised’ behaviour, and animal cruelty should not be excused as being part of cultural behaviour in another part of the world.

Download the full report from the Tourism Concern website. To find related information on the Leisure Tourism website, try starting with the search (animals AND captive) AND (tourism OR welfare OR entertainment OR attractions).

Article details

  • Author(s)
  • David Simpson
  • Date
  • 12 December 2017
  • Subject(s)
  • Arts and Entertainment
  • Tourism