Elephants and other animals are wildlife, not entertainers, say many animal rights and wildlife conservation groups, including World Animal Protection.
Now more tour operators and online travel sites are eliminating, or at least reducing, bookings of such attractions. One of them is Expedia, which announced last week that in consultation with various NGOs, many wildlife-related activities soon will no longer be available for bookings on its site.
Expedia’s decision follows companies such as Intrepid Travel, which ceased any booking of elephant rides three years ago. Last autumn, TripAdvisor said it would phase out ticket sales to many animal-related attractions in a shift towards more responsible tourism.
One of the organizations with which Expedia said it will partner is the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance, which describes global wildlife trafficking as a crisis that is devastating some of the most magnificent animals on earth. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a wildlife and marine life attraction certification organization, will also consult with Expedia on determining which wildlife venues are focused on conservation as opposed to others that present animals as entertainers.
In addition, Expedia will also seek feedback from the Humane Society of the United States. One of the problems the Humane Society has confronted is the evaluation of zoos that are focused on conservation rather than those that are more tourist attractions with no concern for animal welfare. Even though U.S. law in general prohibits the possession of certain wild animals, loopholes exist – the results have included “roadside zoos,” such as privately-owned attractions in Maryland that the Humane Society profiled in a scathing report in 2013.
Expedia says it will soon launch a “Wildlife Tourism Education Portal,” which will aim to educate travelers on various animal-related activities while they plan their future trips.
“Our planet’s wildlife is disappearing at a devastating rate as poachers meet consumer demand for exotic wildlife products,” said Sara Walker, Executive Director of U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance in a public statement. “With its significant global reach and influence, the travel and tourism industry can make an enormous impact in helping to end the scourge of wildlife trafficking.”
Image credit: Leon Kaye