Daily Life

From animal selfies to suspicious souvenirs: Five things you should never do on holidays

Here’s how to avoid these unethical tourist traps.

With borders slowly re-opening, travel is thankfully on the horizon. While we can't wait to get back out into the world, it's more important than ever to be a conscious tourist, especially when it comes to the treatment of animals.
In a quest for the best holiday experience, many eager travellers unknowingly fuel a dark and cruel trade - unethical animal tourism. In a normal travel year, around 110 million people will visit inhumane wildlife attractions worldwide – which accounts for roughly 10 per cent of international tourism trips taken annually. World Animal Protection also found that three out of four wildlife tourist attractions involved some form of animal cruelty.
So, before you book that swimming with dolphins experience or elephant riding activity, it's a smart idea to be aware of some common tourist traps that exploit animals, and potentially put you in harms way. Here are five things to be mindful of on your next adventure to protect yourself, your family, and vulnerable wildlife.

1. Animal selfies aren't as cute as they look

Sloths, bears and tiger cubs might look adorable, but there's a harsh reality behind the scenes. Anyone who's seen Tiger King will know that these animals are often abused and over-bred to fuel a public hunger for cub selfies. After being plucked from the wild and/or raised in captivity, animals are usually declawed and/or drugged for picture opportunities. This is extremely dangerous and distressing for these wild animals, so consider skipping the selfie and avoiding these types of tour organisations on your next holiday.
Tourism activities that involve physical interactions with wild animals almost always involve animals being beaten into submission, deprived of food and water or trapped in cages. Supplied

2. Keep your distance

Did you know that 75 per cent of new human diseases come from animals, particularly wild ones? With the recent outbreak of coronavirus stemming from animal markets in China, there's never been a better time to avoid touching animals that aren't domestic pets. Even if a wild animal looks healthy, they can still carry harmful germs and pass on zoonotic diseases (transmittable from animals to humans).
When it comes to wild animals, keeping your distance is a good rule of thumb… for everyone involved. Activities like swimming with dolphins and up-close safaris may appear fun and educational, but they're unnatural and stressful for the animals. Instead, support wildlife-friendly companies that offer opportunities such as watching dolphins in the wild or observing wild animals from a distance on an ethical safari.
Sadly, many tourists who love animals may actually contribute to animal suffering because they are unaware of this hidden cruelty. Supplied

3. Opt for sustainable souvenirs

Souvenirs are a great way to remember time spent in a new place, however the means of sourcing some popular trinkets inflict pain and suffering on animals, and should be boycotted. The solution is simple: when shopping, never buy products and souvenirs made from animals, including all fur, ivory, shells, seahorses, teeth, rhino horn, snakeskin and turtle shell products. Instead, choose to purchase locally produced, environmentally sustainable souvenirs to both support local culture and protect animals.

4. Avoid elephant excursions

Elephants are beautiful creatures, and it's easy to see why so many people want to get up close to these gentle giants. However, in many tourist hot-spots, elephants are majorly exploited for rides, shows, bathing experiences, painting and more. These elephants undergo brutal training methods in order to be 'tamed' and are kept in abysmal conditions that profoundly impact their physical and mental wellbeing. After calves are separated from their mothers, they will be restrained by chains or ropes and prevented from moving unless commanded to by their trainer. They are then forced to accept people riding on their necks, with pain inflicted to speed up the process. If you're keen for an elephant experience, see them in the wild, or at an ethical, elephant-friendly sanctuary such as ChangChill and Following Giants in Thailand.
World Animal Protection is calling on Australians to be part a global movement and join the Wild Side of Travel, alongside thousands of animal lovers fighting to give every wild animal a wild life. Supplied

5. Never feed wild animals

When we start feeding wild animals, they are conditioned to become dependent on it and can be lured out of their natural habitats, which is unsafe. It not only weakens their natural survival instinct but it exposes them to the dangers of our society such as electrocution from power lines, traffic accidents, and being captured for commercial exploitation. Human food is not designed for animal consumption, and can lead to obesity, disease and malnourishment. Sharing food also increases the risk of disease transmission between people and animals including colds and flu, measles, tuberculosis, pneumonia and various zoonotic diseases.
There are still ways to enjoy the company of animals when traveling without contributing to their suffering. Wherever you decide to go, always remember to research before paying for an animal experience, ask plenty of questions and report any suspected animal cruelty. For more information, and to join the Wild Side of Travel initiative, visit World Animal Protection.
Brought to you by World Animal Protection.