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TripAdvisor bans ticket sales to attractions that allow contact with wild animals
Global travel website TripAdvisor is launching a ‘no touching of wild animals’ policy, whereby it will no longer sell tickets to attractions where tourists come into physical contact with captive, wild or endangered animals.
Amid concerns over cruel practices and exploitation by tourism businesses, the policy will cover experiences such as swimming with dolphins, petting tigers and elephant rides, practices that animal welfare charities have long campaigned against.
With the rise of nature-based and ‘last chance’ tourism, the potential for human and wild animal interaction has never been so available, nor so fraught with possible conflicts. Around the world, especially where government management is either inadequate or absent, wild animals are vulnerable to operators eager to push the boundaries.
With limited controls in some locations, tourists can cuddle doped tigers, ride elephants traumatised by violent training or pose for photographs while hugging dolphins.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) spokesperson Stephanie Shaw explained that the organisation welcomed the move, stating “we applaud TripAdvisor taking this stance, helping to raise awareness. Elephant training, for example, is brutal and cruel.”
Richard Rees, Director of the Maldives Whale Shark Research Program, told The Guardian about what goes on during whale shark trips, advising “in some places, it’s a free-for-all.
“We see touching, riding, flash photography, obstruction – all sorts of bad practices.”
The Guardian reports that at the same time as these kinds of experiences have flourished, TripAdvisor has grown into the world’s largest travel website, with 690,000 attractions listed and 385 million reviews.
Attractions listed on the site have been bookable since 2014, when the company acquired bookings firm Viator. TripAdvisor believes hundreds of businesses could be affected by its policy although it will not say exactly how many, or name the companies that will be affected. And while it will not sell attractions that allow physical interaction with animals, it will continue to list them.
TripAdvisor’s moves follows that of other tourism companies including STA Travel and adventure travel company Intrepid both introduced a ban on elephant rides in 2014.
Amid controversy following the Blackfish film, STA extended its ban to SeaWorld.
Rees welcomes TripAdvisor’s move, citing the company’s powerful influence, adding “out in the real world, TripAdvisor is often the only voice that really scares operators.
“I like that we’ll have visitors with the right expectations about what good practice is.”
In addition to a ban on these ticket sales, TripAdvisor is introducing an education portal with information on animal welfare practices and advice and opinion from conservation charities. In future all listings that involve any interaction with wildlife will have a button that clicks through to the portal. The company hopes that users will be encouraged to write more informed reviews after reading this information.
The bookings policy and portal will be implemented in early 2017.
The implications of TripAdvisor’s policy may be far-reaching. Elephant riding in northern Thailand, for example, is a big money-spinner in a relatively poor area.
Danny Groves of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society points out that captivity is not being tackled advising “this is a positive step, but it does not address the issue of promoting trips to see whales and dolphins that are held captive. It would be great to see TripAdvisor take action in this regard.”
Steve McIvor of World Animal Protection which has partnered with TripAdvisor concluded “we hope it will only be a matter of time before TripAdvisor will also come to realise that it has to end sales to all cruel wildlife attractions, such as SeaWorld where the animals endure a lifetime of abuse and highly stressful training to perform.
“Until then we will provide the best education we can on TripAdvisor’s website to steer people away from cruel venues like these.”
Images: Elephant tourism in Thailand (top) and SeaWorld Orlando's former killer whale show at SeaWorld Orlando (below).
9th May 2016 - CAMPAIGN LOOKS TO NEW LAW TO END DOLPHIN CAPTIVITY IN NSW
22nd March 2016 - SEAWORLD USA TO MOVE AWAY FROM KILLER WHALE SHOWS
5th October 2015 - THOMAS COOK CHALLENGED FOR OFFERING ANIMAL TOURIST ATTRACTIONS
7th January 2015 - ANIMAL RIGHTS CAMPAIGNERS TARGET SEA WORLD DOLPHINS
16th August 2014 - TRIPADVISOR ANNOUNCES TRAVELLER’S CHOICE AWARDS FOR ZOOS AND AQUARIUMS
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