Becoming an ethical wildlife traveler does not have to be challenging. Now you can easily help protect animals within the tourism industry, helping to signal a shift within the industry that travelers are prioritizing animal friendly practices!
Before you travel, follow these three tips to ensure your encounters are animal friendly!
1. Search for Photos
Say you discovered a new animal experience online. Your first step for checking to see if it is an ethical option is to find more images.
Looking at photos from a Google search, hashtag, or geotagged location is a simple way to gain perspective. By finding candid photos, that are not posed or staged from the company’s website, can help signal if the experience is ethical.
For example, if your search finds photos of unhealthy animals, unnatural behaviors/performances, or barren containment/cages this experience should be skipped! Or if you find photos that show animals acting naturally within a natural environment, that experience might be a great option.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so trust your instinct. If something seems unnatural or cruel – it likely is!
2. Check your Sources
Before buying a ticket, make sure to verify the animal experience with sources outside the company itself. Roll up your sleeves and do a little investigating.
All too often travelers are tricked with greenwashing buzzwords like “rescue,” “sanctuary,” or “eco-park.” Companies know that tourists like these terms, which can mean more profit, even if it is NOT true.
These terms mean nothing if not backed by actual ethical practices. Be sure to look further to find if they are certified or accredited by a trusted organization. This step is crucial in weeding out the fakes and finding credible encounters that are truly benefiting animals. Check with these wildlife organizations to find out more:
- Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries: Find a Sanctuary Map
- World Animal Protection: Elephant-friendly Tourist Guide
- Born Free: Red Flag Map of Reported Unethical Facilities
3. Dive into Reviews
Just like you check restaurant and hotel reviews before making reservations – check the reviews on wildlife experiences too. Dive into Trip Advisor, Facebook, and Google reviews to see what other travelers have encountered.
Reviews are a great way to understand more about an experience, beyond what the company or tour operator has shared. But do not blindly trust every review you read – positive or negative. Just because an animal encounter rates highly on these platforms does not automatically mean it is an ethical option.
Another tip to speed up this process: search the experience’s name and add the word “abuse” afterward (ie. Thailand elephant riding abuse). While this method is not foolproof, truly ethical encounters do not produce negative press articles, blogs, or petitions for closure. Doing a search like this might just surprise you with its results.
Making Animal Friendly Choices When Travel Planning
As eco-travelers, we have the power to send a strong message with how we spend our money. By supporting ethical animal encounters rather than unethical practices, we send a united message to those in the tourism industry that it is time for a shift towards protecting wildlife! Following these three simple steps will help guide you in the direction of finding animal friendly travel options.
Examples of Ethical Animal Friendly Travel Options
- Wildlife Selfies – What’s the Harm in a Picture
- 6 Best Tips for Whale Watching Ethically
- How to Avoid Elephant Abuse While Traveling
About the Author
Milo’s Wildlife is a guide for worldwide travelers wanting to connect with nature. From years as an Environmental Educator, Milo has continued to help spark life-changing experiences with people and wildlife. He works to inspire and engage travelers to discover the natural world and help protect it in the process. During Milo’s travels, he has been able to connect with nature all over the globe and now he wants to guide others in their own wild journey for wildlife! Find out more at www.miloswildlife.com or follow @milos_wildlife.
Image credits: Milo Putnam / Milo’s Wildlife.