I recently started working for an organization which aims to stop animal cruelty and I’m writing a report on lion hunting in South Africa. It got me thinking about how travellers treat animals and how we can unwittingly harm them. These tips will help prevent that so that when we all can travel again we will do it in a way that helps animals not hurt them.
Be careful and research
When you see images of people cuddling with lions it can be so adorable. In fact, I wanted to cuddle cubs to. Then I learnt that lion cubs are not supposed to be petted. Petting cubs makes them used to human touch and they become tame, unable to survive in the wild and hunt. Lion cubs are also taken from their mothers and cannot bond properly with fellow lions because of tourists who want to pet a lion. In South Africa and many countries which allow lion petting the lions are killed once their become adults. They are hunted on private property as they cannot be released in the wild.
The same goes for tigers in Asia who are brutally beaten and often tranquilized so that tourists can touch them or take photos. A wild tiger wouldn’t be standing still for you to take a selfie. The tiger’s spirit needs to be broken to stand still and for that to happen tons of daily abuse occurs.
Learn about animal behaviour
If you plan of seeing animals in the wild it is good to a little bit about their behaviour that way you will notice if animal abuse is happening. If you see a pride of lions with mostly adult male lions it indicates that something’s off. A pride of lion typically has more female lions in it.
Don’t go to marine parks
I kind of wanted to go to the Duisburg Zoo to see the dolphin show. At the same time it felt weird seeing dolphins perform. They have to be trained to do this. In the end I skipped going. Whales are too big to live in tanks and be truly healthy, happy and safe. The same goes for dolphins that end up depressed. Flipper the famous dolphin from the movie called Flipper ended up committing suicide by not resurfacing to breathe air because of being in captivity too long and utterly heartbroken. Don’t go to marine parks and support them financially. Rather go to spots which rehabilitate and conserve. In my city Boulders is a good spot because the money you pay to see the penguins goes to conservation. And if you follow the rules by staying a meter away unless they come up to you, you won’t harm the penguins.
Be careful of what you eat
Don’t eat animals which are endangered in the name of experiencing the local culture. Most times locals don’t eat the animals peddled to unsuspecting travellers as local cuisine. In South Africa we don’t eat crocodile and game meat every day. I have never tasted a crocodile or had springbok meat. But, you will find this kind of meat on the menus of some restaurants which cater to tourists.
In Japan you might get offered shark fin soup. Rather pass as the sharks are slaughtered in horrific ways to end up in a soup bowl. Plus, sharks are on the brink of extinction. Now with the out break of COVID 19 awareness around eating endangered wildlife is increasing as pangolins which are endangered may have passed on the virus to people who ate them. There is many other delicious food options that won’t kill off our animals choose them rather.
If you see animals being harmed report it to local authorities. You can also contact organizations like Network for Animals and the World Wildlife Fund. In South Africa you can contact the SPCA if you see any animal abuse taking place.
Be careful about volunteering
Volunteering and helping animals is a noble task. The thing is do thorough research first. Sadly in South Africa some organizations state that you will help “orphaned” lion cubs by paying a fee. Normally the fee goes to the reserve or farm owner. You get to touch the cubs once again taming them and when the baby lion grows up it is hunted, killed and turned into a trophy for rich hunters from all over the world.
Be careful of bad volunteering but, do look into volunteering. You will be able to find ethical places by searching on the WWF site and asking around. Ask on forums like Trip Advisor and read reviews of places. Search for newspaper articles on your potential volunteer organization. If you rather donate money then do the same research and help support animal welfare in the places you travel through if you have the cash to spare.
Support the local businesses
Supporting local businesses allows people to make money ethically. Locals won’t want or need to hurt animals if you help their businesses. It will make a big difference and will aid sustainable community development which benefits both humans and animals.
Go on ethical safaris
If you visit Addo Elephant Park or the Kruger National Park in South Africa you are supporting conservation of wildlife. You also will have to be ok with viewing the wildlife from a distance. But, this is better as it does not frighten them. In the end viewing an elephant from a distance is better than traumatizing it with being up close.
Remember animals aren’t attractions
They are marketed as such and I used to think they are. But, I now know better. Don’t run with bulls, bulls are stabbed and end up being tortured before being slaughtered so that they are angry enough to stampede. A bear in nature doesn’t dance around for humans so don’t expect a bear to do it whilst you are on holiday. Elephant backs are not made for riding it hurts them and they are continuously beaten and confined by chains or in small cages in order to want to give people rides. The same with donkeys in Greece they are being overworked in sweltering heat without food or water. Tourists apparently don’t like it when they poo along the trail. They are often hit leaving them with horrific scars, when they are too old to climb the steep hills of places like Santorin they are killed.
Shame the bad guys and praise the good ones
If you do see animal abuse you should go on social media and rant. Take photos and or videos if you can without getting hurt yourself and put them all over. If you expose the people who are doing this they might end up fined, jailed and or could lose support forcing them to shutdown their exploitative businesses. The same goes for places doing great work like SANCOB, SANPARKS, ADDO ELEPHANT PARK and more in South Africa. Your praise will allow people to know where to go to see animals, learn about them without harming them.
Buy souvenirs which aren’t harmful
Don’t buy products made from ivory, fur, shark teeth and any other animal bones etc. You will be promoting hunting of animals for an unnecessary reason. You can buy postcards, locally made art, food, clothes and so much more on your travels instead.
Don’t geotag locations
Posting a photo of a rhino from your safari in Kenya posting it and getting tons of likes is cool but, remember not to tag the exact location. Instead tag it as somewhere in Kenya. Naming the exact reserve can show poachers where to find a rhino to kill. Some reserves are heavily protected from poachers so it’s safe to share the location but, that you will have to confirm with the staff at the reserve. If you aren’t sure then rather keep the location vague.
Try to not use plastic and don’t litter
If you can don’t use disposable plastic as much. Carry your own bio-degradable spoons and your own reusable straw. I must admit I couldn’t afford this during my Europe trips. I’m hoping I will be able to when I do travel again. Also don’t dump dirt all over. Throw it in bins instead of at the beach. Trash ends up in the ocean if it lies on the shore where unsuspecting animals end up eating it choking and dying.
Don’t feed the animals
Humans can easily transfer illnesses to animals so don’t feed them. According to Fly Safari there have been cases of orang-utans that have contracted the flu from people. Another important thing to remember is that you are changing the behaviour of the animal to rely on humans for food instead of finding it. Like in Bali and Thailand where monkeys now steal items form tourists which have to give them food to get back their valuables. You also have to remember that wild animals can attack you for the food you are trying to give to them. This is why locals in Cape Town know not to feed baboons and to keep all food away from places where baboons are known to roam.
Share this info
If you learnt something new whilst reading this post or you know that your friends and family aren’t aware of these issues, and then share what you now know. Talk about ethical travel and how not to harm animals. That way people who don’t know that tiger selfies, lion petting and swimming with dolphins is a bad thing will be informed. I now won’t be petting a lion cub, riding an elephant or taking a photo with a tiger yes I wanted to but knowing that animals need to suffer for me to have fun for me to experiences these things makes it not worth it.
Thank you for reading and feel free to comment.