How to avoid animal abuse while traveling

by Ale Werner
Elephant ride - Ubud - Bali - Indonesia

The practice of animal abuse is very common, especially in Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America. Countries like Thailand, Peru, the Caribbean, South Africa, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam have endless activities where the protagonists are animals, and we humans have the “luck” to interact with them. Many will recommend you to their “rehabilitation centers”, where in reality they have little or nothing to do with rehabilitation of the animals. Be a responsible tourist and read here how to avoid animal abuse while traveling. We must stop the practice of animal abuse and not continue to foment it with visits to these places!

We see rides on elephants, koalas harassed by the flash while someone holds them, shows of snakes and crocodiles, tigers that sleep peacefully while tourists take a selfie, stingrays out of the water to be petted, a photo with a Sea Star in someone hands … sounds nice don’t you think?

Como evitar el maltrato animal en viajes - Tiger Temple en Bangkok, Tailandia
Sedated tiger ready for selfies and tourist photographs / Tiger Temple, Bangkok, Thailand

What few know about is the mistreatment that animals receive behind the scenes, not always what you see is the whole story. Of course, you will never presence directly the abuse, the people who lead these places are not so stupid as to mistreat before the tourist’s eyes.

Ignorance and misinformation leads tourists to participate in these activities, just because the picture looks cute. It is true that there are places that do not mistreat, but those are the least. We encourage you to learn how to avoid animal abuse while traveling before paying hundreds of dollars and to contribute to this practice to continue happening.

Como evitar el maltrato animal en viajes - Tarsier en Bohol, Filipinas
Tarsiers sleep during the day and hunt at night / Bohol, Philippines

Forms of animal abuse

Animal abuse goes far beyond hitting the animals. There are places that deprive them of having enough space to move freely; others only give them food and water if they behave in a certain way (have you heard of the elephants who paint pictures, or do they balance on balls? This is what we are referring to …); they may also be mutilated by removing their teeth and nails. There are many forms of animal abuse that can never be seen with your eyes as a traveler, but they do happen.

It also happens in some places that the schedules or the needs of the animals are not respected. For example, in the Philippines, we can find the Tarsiers, which are small primates almost extinct. In the nature of these little friends is to sleep during the day and hunt at night to feed; However, every day thousands of tourists awaken them with loud talks, shouts, and photographs, which causes them irreparable damage and in the long run decreases their life expectancy.

Como evitar el maltrato animal en viajes - Elefantes Ubud - Bali - Indonesia
Elephants “naturally seated” / Ubud – Bali – Indonesia

In the case of marine animals, such as starfish and stingrays, there are no punches or food deprivation. But if they take them out of their environment and their habitat, don’t you think it causes them stress and suffering? … Sea stars even die when air enters their body, all because of a photo. We see irresponsible divers holding turtle shells to “feel like they swim with no effort” … the examples are many, just use your common sense.

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So, how can we avoid animal abuse on trips?

Find information about the place you are going to visit. And when we say that you look for information, do not do it on Tripadvisor or Blogs where nobody will tell you how hard the place was with the animal, how they hit them, how they saw them suffer … As we told you, the abuse will never happen in from of your eyes.

Read the negative comments, investigate a little more about animal rights and use your common sense. Do you think it’s normal for an elephant to paint with their trunk? If it is not, think twice before participating in these activities.

Como evitar el maltrato animal en viajes - bali - paseo en elefante
An “entertaining” activity can be torture for elephants / Ubud – Bali – Indonesia

Rescue and recovery centers: not always what they claim to be.

If you find out a little more, the rescue centers of more developed countries do not allow the animals to have contact with people, beyond the person who feeds them and examines their wounds if they had some.

If you are in Southeast Asia and desperately want to be with elephants, then the only “recommended” place to do so is the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai.

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