For animal lovers one of the greatest elements of travelling is getting up close and personal with wildlife from around the world.
While travel is a wonderful opportunity to see animals around the globe, tourists’ enthusiasm for interacting with wildlife can also lead to animals being exploited at the hand of the tourism industry.
A key example of this is elephants, which face exploitation from activities including elephant riding and unethical elephant sanctuaries.
As April 16th is Save the Elephant Day, specialist travel agency Footloose Travel are speaking out about how to ensure you are planning an ethical elephant adventure.
Say No to Elephant Riding
One of the biggest threats to elephants from the tourism industry is the surge of elephant riding. When visiting countries such as Thailand and India this activity is at the top of many tourists’ bucket-list. A WAP survey in 2016 found that 40% of tourists visiting Thailand planned to ride an elephant. However, what many of these travellers won’t realise is that elephant riding is actually cruel to elephants.
Not only is the act of riding an elephant harmful to the animal, but these elephants are also often kept in cruel conditions. The same WAP report found that 3/4 of the elephants they investigated in captive environments were living in ‘severely cruel conditions’.
Elephants can be expected to work up to 8 hours per day, and the load of carrying the mahout, two tourists and the riding chair can weigh up to 500kg. To provide the elephants with more energy they are often fed amphetamines which can lead to an addiction.
Experiences such as elephant riding can only continue for so long as there is a demand for them. The only way tourists can help to stop this activity is to turn down these riding experiences and eradicate the demand for this service.
Do Your Research
Travellers who wish to interact with wildlife on their holiday are animal-lovers, so of course they would never intentionally wish to partake in an activity which would be harmful to the animals involved. The issue is not a lack of compassion, rather a lack of awareness – so the solution is to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible ahead of your travels.
Make sure to carry out thorough research on any sanctuaries, parks or elephant activities you plan to visit during your travels and ask yourself the following questions:
-Can the elephants move around freely?
-Is there limited contact with visitors?
-Are visitors educated on elephant welfare as part of their visit?
If your answers to these questions are yes, it is most likely an ethical environment providing proper care and conditions for the elephants. Also make sure to check that the elephants here are not being used for any rides, shows, tricks, or any other form of entertainment. You should also beware of organizations using the terms ‘elephant sanctuary’ or ‘elephant refuge’ as these terms are often intentionally used to mislead visitors into believing the elephants are well cared for, so don’t allow these names alone to lead you to believe the park you are visiting is an ethical environment.
What better way is there really to see elephants than in their natural habitat on a thrilling safari trip? Not only are safaris the most ethical way of viewing wildlife, but it is also the most authentic and life-changing experience for you as a traveller. Seeing elephants, and other wildlife, living their natural lives out in the wild is a far more positive and insightful way of getting up close to the natural world than visiting elephants in confined environments.
David Guthrie, Managing Director of Tent with a View, who works closely with Footloose says, “A safari is the only way to truly experience an elephant; witnessing the emotional complexity of such awe-inspiring animals as they interact is a moving experience which few people forget.
The whole natural world on show on a safari is captivating, unearthing for many a connection to nature they never knew they had. Witnessing elephants in large numbers, or at close hand can reduce some to tears; even the most cynical heart pumps a little harder.”
Discussing the educational impact of safaris, he adds, “Ethical safaris to learn about, as well as witness elephants, are an essential tool to keep these animals front and centre before the policy makers. if we go home spreading the word about the need to be interested in elephant conservation we keep our governments on their toes, and our elephants alive.”
Footloose Travel Elephant Conservation Projects
Footloose Travel are actively involved in helping to support research projects which help to develop conservation parks to best suit animals’ needs.
In Saadani National Park and Selous Game Reserve, Footloose have supported the team in implementing a new model in which the safari camp has enlisted a scientific researcher to complete their study on-site, with all accommodation and equipment fully funded. This helps to ensure these vital projects reach completion, as previously, independent PHD researchers faced issues due to lack of funds.
The project underway in Saadani aims to re-establish corridors, which allow increasingly isolated elephant populations to access protected areas and feeding sites. The project is also focused on examining how elephants in the area interact with the local community and eradicating any points of conflict.
Footloose Travel are now working on a second elephant project in Saadani which will be heavily supported by Footloose sponsorship.
Footloose Travel are specialists in safari travel and can create incredible tailor-made wildlife holidays around the globe. For more information and to plan your custom-made wildlife holiday contact the team on 01943 604 030.
About Footloose Travel
Footloose Travel is a specialist travel agency and tour operator specializing in incredible tailor-made travel experiences around the world.
Footloose Travel are a responsible travel company and only offer wildlife experiences which are kind to animals. Footloose Travel is also focused on giving back, and a percentage of every booking made with Footloose Travel is donated to a charity close to the organisation’s heart.
Footloose Travel are an independent business who pride themselves on their friendly personal service, and provide expert advice and inspiration for planning your perfect custom-made travel experience.
Footloose Travel have built strong relationships with the ground agents in their destinations meaning they are able to provide unique travel experiences and ensure you have support and advice easily on-hand through every step of your travel journey.
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