A wild monkey in Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, which stole half the sandwich off my table!

Animal tourism

We all love to see animals, especially those that we have never seen before or that we wouldn’t normally come across. Seeing animals in the wild is an exhilarating experience – it’s no wonder safaris are as popular as ever. Animal rescue centres can be wonderful experiences too, so long as they care for the animals and don’t use them just to attract tourists at whatever cost to the animal’s welfare.  As I travel more, I learn about how other people perceive animals and how they treat them. With a few simple actions we can stop cruel animal tourism practices.

Help protect animals

Here are 5 things to keep in mind when it comes to animals on your travels:

1. Ask lots of questions
Where have the animals in the sanctuary come from? Are they likely to be released into the wild again? How are they cared for? If you are allowed to interact with them, how is that made possible? Do they drug the animals or have they had their claws or fangs removed to protect tourists? If they are orphans, what happened to the parents?

2. Keep your distance, especially when animals can still roam free
You don’t want to encroach on their space and frighten them. This could spook them, and they may attack resulting in your guide shooting to kill them. If a guide tries to take you too close, refuse and report them.

3. Avoid buying ‘live’ animal souvenirs
Obvious things such as ocean corals and ivory are illegal anyway, but others that seem innocuous such as snake or scorpion wine may not be. Often the animal is still alive when put into the bottle and drowns a slow death before it goes on the stall shelf.

4. Avoid direct interaction with an animal unless you feel certain there is no mistreatment for your benefit
Often people will harm and drug animals, lure them with bait, or snatch them from parents to make money off tourists. This includes for photo opportunities, riding, or going on water safaris that feed wild animals to make sure tourists get a glimpse of them.

5. Speak out if you see mistreated animals
Things will only change when enough people speak out and it becomes less lucrative for those profiting from the misery of animals. I’m speaking out here – find out about my experience with elephants in Asia.

And there you have it. Just 5 things that we can all do to help end animal mistreatment in the tourism industry.