As travel restrictions are easing and the possibility of a holiday abroad is on the horizon once again, many of us are excitedly dusting off our passports! However, for wild animals, tourism is a real problem. In fact, a study by World Animal Protection found that 75% of wildlife tourist attractions are having a negative impact on wild animals.

As a charity dedicated to the welfare of animals, our vision is a world where all animals are treated with compassion and respect. So, as we all prepare for our next adventure, here are some top tips for staying animal-friendly on your travels.

Person riding on an elephant
1. Avoid riding animals

Whether they’re born into captivity or taken from their families in the wild, elephants are subjected to violent conditioning and cruel ‘training’ methods that force them to obey humans to avoid pain.

Elephants in these situations are deprived of a natural and happy life, often suffering injury and illness and dying premature deaths (PETA UK).

Wherever you see wild animals being used as transport or rides usually indicates exploitation and animal suffering.

2. Say no to swimming with dolphins

As with most animals, marine mammals are not made for a life in captivity. The chlorinated glass tanks expose dolphins to harmful conditions, such as harsh sunlight they cannot escape from. This causes all sorts of health conditions that aren’t seen in wild populations including sunburns, ulcers, stress, cancer, teeth degradation, and injuries from their tanks and tank mates (Dolphin Project). Every ticket bought for a dolphin show or ‘swim with dolphins’ programme is perpetuating the misery these creatures suffer.

Children looking at captive dolphins in a glass tank
3. Don’t have your picture taken with wild animals

These animals have most likely suffered abuse in order to be docile enough to enable you to have your picture taken with them.

Even if the animal appears relaxed, they will often have endured cruelty behind closed doors.

And don’t be fooled into thinking the bond with their owner is genuine. The animal is merely used as an income-driving tool, not a pet, and in many places the industry is run by organised criminal gangs, not individuals (Wanderlust).

4. Research animal sanctuaries and venues before you go

While many projects seem to be ethical, there are many that are simply exploiting wildlife to drive trade from tourism. The best way to avoid supporting these places is to do your research beforehand.

Is the facility accredited? Do they allow tourists to touch the animals? How are the animals housed? Where are the animals acquired from and where are they released? For a list of global volunteering opportunities, WorkingAbroad’s Projects is always a good place to start. Each project is individually vetted in order to ensure that only ethical options are available to those looking to volunteer.

5. Avoid animal cruelty events disguised as ‘culture’

Animal cruelty is still animal cruelty even if it’s part of a region’s culture. This includes things like cockfighting, bullfighting and festivals where animals are injured or killed.

If you want to help eradicate the unnecessary suffering of these animals, avoid these events altogether.

A monkey chained at an animal shelter in Indonesia
6. Don’t buy souvenirs made from endangered species

As well as being illegal in certain countries, buying souvenirs made from endangered species further perpetuates the likelihood of extinction, as these animals will continue to be hunted for poachers to make a profit. Some of the many things you should avoid include ivory, tortoiseshell, reptile skins, furs and some corals and seashells (Responsible Travel).

A caged tiger lying down on a platform
7. Report incidents of animal cruelty to the right people

If you are at a venue or restaurant where you feel an animal is being mistreated, tell the manager. The more comments they receive, the more likely they are to discontinue it.

Importantly, if you think something is wrong, report it to your tour operator or you can report it to the following:

8. Spread the word

The more people who understand how to travel in an animal-friendly way, the better chance we have of ending animal suffering around the world. Share this blog, tell your friends and family and promote your own stories of ethical travel. Together with animal lovers like you, we can help to end to animal suffering across the world.

Would you like to make a difference to animals today? Sign up to our IAPWA Newsletter! It’s jam-packed with inspiring animal stories and ways you can get involved to help animals in need.

Written by: Charlotte Stevenson
Guest Writer