Going on holiday somewhere exciting like the Amazon or Thailand often heeds the expectation that you should get a ride on an elephant (don’t ever do this!) or a selfie with a snake. Unfortunately, many holiday makers don’t realise the full implications of what this means for the animals themselves – I’m here to give you the break down so you’re aware next time you’re abroad!
In recent years the awareness surrounding implications of taking a ride on an elephant or taking a selfie with a sloth has increased dramatically, and as such some establishments will try and sell you the facade that they’re an official wildlife sanctuary or rescue centre. Always do your research before you head out to one of these places. A real sanctuary or rescue centre more often than not will not allow you to handle the animals as this stresses them out, especially after seeing over 200 visitors a day!
The Animals are neglected
Places that allow you to handle and ride animals are only thought of as props for a money making business. As such proper care is not of the utmost importance to the owners of the animals and the animals are housed in inadequate conditions and their emotional wellbeing is not considered. This causes the animals pain in every sense, with sloths being left alone and tied up when not needed for a selfie, crocodiles with their mouths tied shut with elastic bands, and all kinds of animals in cages much too small for them and with nothing to entertain or stimulate them but their thoughts.
These animals are forced to take selfies with visitors regardless of their health. At the time of your visit you may not think of it as that much of a big deal, it’s just one photo, right? Wrong! Each animal can have over 300 selfies taken a day, with hundreds of tourists. They’re subjected to flash photography, improper handling and loud noises minute after minute, day after day. Such levels of stress can be fatal, and animals have been known to live much shorter lives than if they were left in their natural habitats.
These animals are more often than not taken from their mothers in the wild and raised from a young age to encourage them to obey humans. The poor conditions mentioned previously are, in part, to make sure that the animals are easily manageable. The stress of separation is great for every animal involved. Imagine having your child stolen from you without any warning? Unthinkable, right?
Animal behaviour can be misleading
Ever heard of the Quokka? It’s the cute little animal that always looks like it’s smiling, but does that necessarily mean that it’s happy? This goes for dolphins and sloths and are often misunderstood. Sloths often reach out when being passed around a group, often mistaken for affection whereas the reality of the situation is that they are reaching out in fear and desperately trying to grab onto something stable – not a human. Behind each “smiling” animal lies stress, malnutrition and a whole load of confusion.
Selfies have become an epidemic, with billions being taken every day all across the world. Excluding the ridiculous ‘extreme selfie’ trend, which has seen the deaths of multiple young people, selfies are harmless for humans. Sadly, animals stolen from the wild and forced into a cruel ‘profession’ are not inclusive to this harmlessness. According to the organisation World Animal Protection, there are currently 550,000 wild animals being kept captive for the entertainment of tourists. A study on wildlife selfies saw 54% of 249 attractions found online offering the chance to handle animals for photos.
Look for alternatives
When properly cared for and managed, wildlife tourism can be fantastic for everyone involved. Such establishments promote habitat protection as well as animal welfare. Alternative activities are usually wildlife tours, where you can see the animals in their natural habitat, without being a part of their exploitation.
The demand for animal selfies is at an all time high, with 72 different species being advertised across multiple establishments. Next time you’re abroad just stop and think: is it really worth the cruelty and neglect of these thousands of animals just so you can get a photo and brag about holding a sloth to your friends?