It may seem like fun to ride an elephant or have your photo taken with a ferocious tiger, but you are actually doing more harm to them than you may think. In an age where sustainable tourism is booming, more and more tour companies are adopting preservation practices for future generations to enjoy.
Here are a five ways you can enjoy the beauty of watching wild animals in their natural habitats without putting them at risk.
King of the Jungle
These tours involve lion cubs who have been taken from their mother at a young age to be trained for human interaction. If they show any aggressive signs of behaviour they are punished. I love lions, they are one of my favourite animals. Yet I would rather see them happy and enjoying life and not cooped up in a cage waiting to be paraded around for entertainment. Instead, take a safari tour with a local guide and observe these beautiful big cats in their natural environment – roaming free as they should.
It may be your greatest dream to sit on top these gentle giants, but they have gone through rigorous and often cruel training to safely carry people. Training practices include being whipped or beaten with a billhook if they make a mistake. Many tour operators are turning to elephant friendly activities where tourists can experience the beauty of these animals while ensuring they remain harm free. Companies like Tiger Tops in Nepal run elephant walks where this gentle giant is actually your guide. Not only do you get a good work out, but you get to observe the elephants as they lead you into the jungle on a slow, relaxing meander.
It may seem like a novelty when you visit countries like Morocco and India, but the snakes themselves have gone through a lot of pain to be paraded in front of tourists for entertainment and profit. When they are captured they have their teeth removed, some even have their mouths sewn shut. Although the practice was banned in the seventies, there are still illegal snake charmers operating to make a profit off these cruel practices. I saw these practices in action when I was in Morocco last year, and it does not look like fun for the snake being dragged in and out of its basket to perform on command.
Dolphins are perhaps the most friendly mammal in the ocean where they can roam free and soar in and out of the waves as they please. However, for those who are kept in marine parks to perform for the crowds, life is very different. Dolphins are chased down, captured and kept in claustrophobic containers. When they are released into the pool, they often display self destructive behaviours from being cooped up in such an unnatural environment. Often this results in them banging their heads against the pool wall and damaging their fragile bodies. Instead, book onto an open air eco friendly dolphin tour and watch these beautiful mammals in the wild. I still remember how amazing it was to watch a dolphin dance across the waves in front of the catamaran I was on in Hawaii. It is a sight I will always remember.
It may seem like fun to watch a parading monkey in a circus or animal show. Little do we know how much torment that animal has gone through to entertain us. Monkeys are mainly used to entertain tourists I Asia and when they are not entertaining, they are kept chained up in closed quarters. If you want to help protect the monkeys, take an eco friendly tour and check them out in the wild. You can guarantee that when they do their back flips, it will be with genuine happiness to entertain and not forced by their cruel trainers.