In some ways tourism can benefit wildlife by providing financial support to conservation efforts and by bringing in additional help and skills via volunteering projects.

But the sad reality is that much of the time tourism has a negative impact on animals & wildlife. Whether it’s visiting or even volunteering at ‘con conservation’ projects, having your picture taken with a tiger that should be in the wild, or riding an elephant that’s likely to have suffered in order to submit – tourism contributes to animal cruelty in many ways.

Of course the majority of people who visit animal attractions or interact with wildlife when travelling don’t realise that they are sustaining a cycle of poor animal welfare.   Some con conservation projects have carefully crafted their image to deceive travellers into thinking they are genuinely helping a good cause. You can avoid being duped by false organisations that do more harm than good by doing your research. By knowing before you go you can dodge anything that supports poor animal welfare – if you know about the plight of the Slow Loris you won’t be having a selfie with one.

As travellers, it is our responsibility to be informed and to make the right choices that benefit the wildlife and people of the destinations we visit.

Animal Friendly Travel Blog:

Animal Friendly Travel Tips

Do not support the use of animals as photographic ‘props’
Many of these animals have been taken from the wild and those that will grow too large to handle will ultimately be killed. Endangered animals like the Slow Loris suffer because of their cuteness. These beautiful creatures are captured from the wild and are subjected to having their teeth cut off or pulled out so they cannot bite tourists (Slow Loris have a dangerous toxic bite). Many die at this time from infection following the procedure.
Avoid staying in hotels that display captive animals
If you were planning on staying at a hotel or eating at a restaurant that displays captive animals then please reconsider if at all possible. If you have already booked then let the management know your disapproval when you leave – if they get enough of these comments there’s more chance of them stopping this practise.
Never feed wild animals
Feeding wild animals could lead to severe health consequences for the animal and also places you at risk.
Do not touch wild animals
Not only could this distress them causing potential harm to you but you may also unwittingly pass on disease to the wildlife you’ve touched.
Avoid going to any circus with animals
A number of animal welfare organisations have raised concerns about the use of animals in circuses no matter where in the world it is not a lifestyle that is conducive to happy, healthy animals.

“Circus animals suffer a life of constant travelling, inadequate ‘beast-wagons’, deprivation and harsh training methods” – Born Free 2014

Visiting Captive Facilities, Animal Attractions or Projects

Take the following considerations into account before visiting any captive animal facility:

If it sounds too good to be true it’s because it usually is. Think twice about visiting attractions like tiger temples. Having your picture taken with an animal you would never normally be able to get close to may sound like an opportunity you can’t miss but consider this – tigers are endangered in the wild and in Thailand there are thought to be only around 250 left. This is far less than the number in ‘temples’ where the population continues to rise and captive tigers are put on display for up to three hours a day in temperatures that can reach over 40°C. Find out more about why tiger temples are wrong in a recent report by Care for the Wild and view some animal friendly alternatives to visit in our Thailand responsible travel page.

Put yourself in the animal’s position. In the case of a tiger cub, would you like to be taken from your mother at three months old and handed to strangers?

Do your research. Organisations are not always what they seem, behind bright smiles and tales of conservation may lay squalid conditions and a lack of care. Check out Right Tourism run by Care for the Wild to find out about country specific welfare issues as well as a list of great organisations you can visit where animal welfare and conservation are the top priority.

Consider your own welfare. You’re in a foreign country where medical care may not be fantastic. Always bear in mind, especially if you choose to be around large animals, the harm that they could potentially cause you.

Do not support animal performances where animals are trained to perform tasks that that have humanised behaviours and no basis in their natural behaviour. For example riding bikes, cleaning teeth, painting etc. These unnatural behaviours involve substantially more training and this can have serious animal welfare implications (Born Free 2014).

If your visit to an animal attraction has been organised by a tour operator then ask about the animal welfare practises in place. Have any animals been taken from the wild? Does the attraction contribute to the conservation of animals in the wild?

If you visit a zoo or other captive facility and see small, cramped or unnatural enclosures, signs of abnormal behaviour or animal suffering, or exploitative animal shows then please report it to the Born Free organisation.


Con Conservation

Many tourism programmes include opportunities to visit animal facilities or participate in wildlife experiences that claim to be of benefit to conservation efforts.

While there are undoubtedly abundant opportunities for travellers to make positive contributions to wildlife conservation there are sadly all too many instances where animals are exploited solely for financial benefit. Right Tourism 2014.

Certain organisations use conservation as a front to not only increase visitor numbers but to encourage donations too. Don’t be fooled into believing you are making a difference when unfortunately the opposite is happening. You can avoid con conservation projects with some prior research about the organisation or facility you plan to visit…

  • Are they associated with any trusted organisations or charities for example Born Free, National Geographic, World Animal Protection, Care for the Wild etc.
  • What is there conservation strategy?
  • How does it build environmental and cultural awareness amongst visitors and locals? Most genuine conservation projects will have an educational programme alongside their conservation too raise awareness and inform both visitors and local people about wildlife species and how to protect them.

Wildlife Encounter Advice

Keep a distance, do not approach the animals.

For endangered animals like the langurs on Cat Ba Island (Vietnam) keep at least 50m away.

Keep quiet.  Loud and unfamiliar noises disturb wild animals had can have a pronounced effect on their behaviour over time.

Do not feed, touch, or throw things at any animals encountered.

If you are taking photographs, make sure that your flash is turned off. Keep quiet when you leave if the animal is still in the area.

Advice kindly provided by the Cat Ba Langur Conservation Project.

Reporting Animal Welfare Issues

Born Free  if you visit a zoo or other captive facility and see small, cramped or unnatural enclosures, signs of abnormal behaviour or animal suffering, or exploitative animal shows then please report it to the Born Free organisation Right Tourism – If you’ve seen an animal being harmed because of tourism, please inform Right Tourism. They will include your comments on their blog, as this will help to raise awareness of the problem. Backpacker Bible – We will investigate your concerns further, share the information with our wildlife partners and raise awareness of the issue via our website.