Often animal and wildlife tourist attractions are disguised as natural, helpful, or worse — as "conservation", when in reality they're just masked exploitation and mistreatment, and even animal-loving tourists may not be aware of the underlying misery involved, and unknowingly pay for and support cruel practices.
Simply put — if humans are involved and there's a profit to be made, it's bad news for animals.
what's wrong with animal tourism?
If you're interacting with wild animals in anywhere other than the actual wild or a reputable sanctuary or rescue, then the sad truth is that animal abuse is likely involved because the animals there have been captured, separated from their families, held captive against their will, forced to perform unnatural activities, and given the minimum amount of care to keep them alive.
And — all too often — not even that.
here's what to avoid:
walking with lions
Stolen lion cubs are confined, drugged for photos, then when they grow up and can't be released, they're used yet again to be walked on leashes, and often go on to be shot for sport in cruel canned hunts.
Monkeys are captured, chained, starved, beaten, and often have their teeth pulled out, all to force them to perform tricks or beg tourists for money. Visit monkeys in sanctuaries instead.
As if habitat loss due to destruction of the rainforest for palm oil wasn't enough, young orangutans are also kidnapped, mistreated, and then forced to perform tricks for tourists.
Bears are abducted and forced to live in unnatural, overcrowded conditions for tourism that cause stress, fighting, injuries and death. It's important to only visit bears in reputable, humane sanctuaries.
Koala bears are kept captive, mistreated, and forced to interact with humans, which is not only unnatural and unsafe, it also causes them extreme stress and trauma.
Sloths are confined in small cages which causes them to fight with and injure each other. Sloth bears are also kidnapped for the pet trade and are often abused and killed.
slow loris pet trade
Slow lorises are illegally poached from their natural habitats, smuggled in cruel conditions where they often die due to suffocation, and have their teeth cut out without anesthetic. The whole species is now in danger of extinction because of this horrifically cruel trade.
Tarsiers are tiny primates that are endangered due to habitat destruction, hunters, pet trade and tourist attractions, where they're often kept in in poor conditions, so it's important to only visit them a certified humane sanctuary.
Asian palm civets are captured from the wild, confined in small cages, deprived of their natural diets, and instead fed coffee cherries to poop out so tourists can drink the coffee made from their feces called Kopi Luwak. Yes, this is totally disgusting.
handling sea turtles
Don't touch or pick up sea turtles or try to 'assist' baby sea turtles getting to the sea. Sea turtle tourist attractions confine, mistreat and even kill the turtles. Tourists often harass turtles in the wild, causing harm, injury and death.
The boats used to take tourists out to sea harm whales by interfering with their communication, breathing, feeding and reproduction. Familiarity of boats also makes them more susceptible to commercial hunting and whaling.
shark cage diving
Forced interaction with predators is unnatural as it is, but shark cage dives unnaturally chum the water with bait, which disrupts their diet and behavior.
swimming with dolphins
Dolphins are confined to small tanks where they live in unnatural, unhealthy conditions, and forced to perform tricks, instead of swimming 60 miles a day in the wild. And swimming with wild dolphins disrupts their feeding and breeding.
swimming with whale sharks
Swimming with whale sharks harms and disrupts their communication, feeding, nutrition, and migration patterns, plus they're often injured by boat propellers.
swimming with stingrays
Swimming with stingrays affects their behavior and feeding patterns and causes them stress and weaker immune systems. They're also often injured and disfigured by boats.
swimming with manatees
Interacting with or touching manatees is not only wrong, it's illegal. Disturbing them can affect their natural feeding, safety and behavior. Also, boats.
swimming with pigs
Pigs are stranded on an island, living completely unnatural lives without adequate food, fresh water, shelter or protection, are abused and sometimes killed by tourists, and also routinely killed by locals for population control.
Elephants are kidnapped from their families and imprisoned to a life of torture where they are beaten into submission with barbaric instruments like steel hooks called bullhooks. And, they cry. Because they're sad.
Visit elephants in sanctuaries instead.
Camels are mistreated and abused for rides and photos. They're chained, muzzled, beat with hooks, starved and tied together and riden, causing stress, painful joint diseases and arthritis, and also diseases from exposure.
Ostriches cannot safely support the weight of humans and riding is unnatural, painful and cruel to the birds kept captive just to be used and abused.
Riding horses, and donkeys, is also unnatural. The weight and pressure cause bone, joint and muscle stress, and the bits, whips and spurs cause pain and injury.
Horses are forced to perform excruciating physical labor pulling carts in street traffic in extreme weather, and they're often worked to death, dropping dead on the job, and causing horrific accidents.
Horses used for racing are whipped, beaten, drugged, shocked, and forced to perform in extreme physical activity during which they're often injured and frequently drop dead in what they call 'fatal breakdowns'.
Dogs are confined to tiny cages, electrocuted, starved and forced to race in an industry that is rampant with abuse and neglect cases. Smaller animals are also often hung up alive to train the dogs to run.
Sled dogs live tethered to boxes, are beaten, starved, drugged, exposed to the elements, forced into extreme physical pain, injuries and exhaustion, and are often either worked to death or killed by their owners during cullings.
Captive animals are used for entertainment in rodeos in horse and bull riding, and steer and calf roping and wrestling, enduring abuses including tying bulls' testicles with rope to make them buck, beating, shocking, injuries and death.
A horrific Indian display of cruelty where bulls are purposefully frightened and then punched, kicked, stabbed with spears, and dragged on the ground.
running with the bulls
Every year in Spain, 40,000 captive bulls are terrified, often set on fire, and shocked, causing them to endure injuries and broken bones, all before cruel painful deaths in bullfights.
In one of the most horrifically barbaric traditions still alive, bulls are led into an area where they are slowly bled and stabbed with lances, have their ears and tails cut off, spinal cords severed, and then slowly bleed out to death.
A bloodsport in which birds are forced to fight in an inescapable pit with blades attached to their legs where they sustain injuries such as lacerations, punctured eyes and lungs, broken bones, and death.
Snakes used in snake charming and snake kissing have their fangs are pulled out with pliers, venom ducts blocked or removed, and sometimes their mouths are sewn shut, and then they're starved so they're forced to come out for food.
Garra rufa fish are trapped and deprived of a natural diet to the point of starvation so that they have no choice but to eat the dead skin off of feet. And, the pedicures are breeding grounds for dangerous, resistant bacteria.
aquariums and marine parks
Marine parks and aquariums capture and confine aquatic creatures to small, unnatural tanks where they suffer stress, overcrowding, disease, and death.
Oysters trapped in pearl farms live in a constant hell. They have their shells pried open to insert an irritant, which hurts them, so they secret the nacre coating to cover it, making a pearl, and then the process is repeated over and over until they die.
Crocodile farms, who overbreed crocodiles for their flesh and hide, cause the crocs stress and injuries at the farm and then an agonizing death as they're cut open, spinal cords severed, skinned alive, and left to die in total agony.
Small farms that sell animal products like honey, eggs, oils, cheeses, or wools often offer tours, animal feedings, or petting zoos to lure tourists. If an animal is being used for it's body parts, then cruelty is inherently involved.
Zoos confine wild animals in unnatural habitats, climates, and enclosures that cause them physical and mental stress and suffering. It's common for animals to sustain injuries and death, from disease, other animals, and even people. Visit sanctuaries and rescues instead.
photos: max pixel via CC0 1.0, garra rufa via CC BY-SA 3.0, civet via CC BY-SA 2.0