Caged monkey at Fantasi Turtle Island

Holidays that Harm

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Image credit: World Animal Protection / Andito Wasi

Elephant rides, tiger shows, swimming with dolphins and orangutan selfies are just some of the cruel interactions on offer at tourism venues in Bali and Lombok.

Popular wildlife tourist venues on these islands have been marketing cruel wildlife experiences as harmless holiday fun, but the reality is far from it.

If an activity allows you to interact with a wild animal in a way that you wouldn’t be able to in the wild, you can be assured cruelty is involved.

Wild animals are ripped from their mothers or bred in substandard captive conditions and trained using inhumane methods to spend a lifetime of misery.

Elephant rider with bullhook, Bali Zoo

Wildlife tourism venues choose profit over compassion

Image credit: World Animal Protection / Andito Wasi

The breeding and use of captive wild animals in tourism is a lucrative business, driven by tourist demand and commerce.

Animals are sentient beings who can experience positive emotions such as happiness and joy, as well as negative ones such as fear and pain.

Sadly, wild animals like elephants, dolphins and orangutans are trained using cruel methods such as hitting, isolation and starvation until they behave in a certain way – all so they can perform in shows and activities at wildlife tourism venues. This has a devastating impact on their physical and mental well-being.

However, many wildlife entertainment venues deceive tourists into thinking they are helping conserve endangered animals through misleading marketing and “humane washing”.

Captive breeding in entertainment venues does not have any genuine benefit to conservation because it is highly unlikely that any of the animals born in captivity will ever be released into the wild.

Orangutan show at Bali Safari

The role of tourists and travel companies

Image credit: World Animal Protection / Andito Wasi

To prevent more wild animals from being taken from the wild, bred in captivity and ultimately abused for wildlife tourism, together, we have to reduce the demand for cruel wildlife tourism performances and activities.

The livelihoods of many locals on these islands depend on tourists, but that doesn't mean wild animals have to suffer.

Wildlife tourism, when properly and responsibly managed, can be good for the environment and wild animals. It can also support the protection of natural areas, improve animal welfare, and support community development.

Tourists have great power to support such responsible wildlife tourism by safely observing wild animals in their natural habitat, or visiting genuine sanctuaries and wildlife-friendly facilities that support genuine conservation or are part of phasing out the use of captive wild animals for tourist entertainment.

Travel companies, too, play a massive role in driving down the demand and ending the exploitation of these sentient beings. They must act responsibly and stop the sale of wildlife encounters, performances and accommodation in places that house wild animals.

As part of our 2017 investigation into captive wildlife entertainment in Bali and Lombok, several prominent travel companies and airlines were discovered promoting and selling tickets to these venues. As a result of our report and direct advocacy, Flight Centre and Helloworld removed content promoting these cruel interactions.

Staff member watches elephants at Somboon Legacy Foundation, Thailand

Tips to be wildlife-friendly on holiday

While there are currently no responsible ways to witness wildlife in Bali and Lombok, here are some handy tips for when you’re looking to encounter wildlife in any part of the world:

  • Observe your favourite animal in their natural habitat or witness them from afar at a genuine sanctuary
  • Any close encounter that allows you to ride, hold, touch, feed, swim or take selfies with a wild animal should be a complete no-no
  • Pick a responsible travel company that has a clear and easily accessible animal welfare policy
  • Report any suspicions or incidents of animal cruelty to local authorities
  • Never purchase a souvenir made from animal products such as crocodile leather handbags or turtle leather wallets
  • Avoid cruel local delicacies such as shark fin soup, monitor lizard, snake satay, tiger wine, and civet coffee

Together, we can play our part to protect wild animals and help keep them thriving in the wild, where they belong.

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