Getting a picture taken with a snake around one’s neck or a tiger’s head on one’s lap seems very dangerous and strange, but this ‘interest’ has in fact grown exponentially over the past few years as some find it to be a nice souvenir. With the rise of social media, wildlife tourism and selfies with animals have risen to over 300% from 2014.
The use of animals for tourism and entertainment is not only inhumane but also unacceptable from an ethical point of view, but also extremely damaging from a conservation perspective.
Most of the wild animals exploited for tourists are poached from ever-decreasing wild populations, if this continues then there will be none left.
Elephants, camels, horses, donkeys are some examples.
India has about 2454 captive elephants and most of them are used for tourism and entertainment. Less than one-fourth (560) of the elephants are with Forest Departments, nearly three-fourths (1,809) are in private custody, and only 3% (85) are in zoos.
They are made to wear heavy equipment for the humans to sit on them, which are often ill fitted. Sometimes, these equipment dig into their skin and cause injuries and infection. Sometimes these animals are painted with toxic paints to make them look attractive. They are made to carry excessive amount of load even if they are tired or have sore feet.
Elephants need a large space to live and move but, are held captive in such cases. Several people try to touch them which scares the innocent animals.
Elephants are kept in inappropriate conditions and are forced to work their entire lives for profit and entertainment of humans.
They are tortured from the very beginning and are forced to endure harsh training and suffering throughout their lives.
They are hit with a sharp tool called a ‘bull hook’ behind their ears in order to scare them and so they learn to obey commands. They are further chained to one spot and made to perform repetitive activities and this causes painful foot problems.
They are beaten with sticks to train them to carry tourists on their backs. They are overworked and under fed.
Aquariums normalize the domestication of wild animals for the purpose of human entertainment. They trap creatures who normally have whole oceans to roam in environments the size of swimming pools. And in the worst circumstances, such as those widely documented at SeaWorld, they can kill the very animals they’re claiming to protect.
Today there are more than 3,000 whales and dolphins held captive in aquariums, zoos and marine parks.
Crocodiles are used for stunts and are beaten and trained to cooperate with the handlers.
They are then trapped in small cages where they are forced to adjust with the new surroundings.
Their cubs are separated from mothers at young ages so they are friendly with humans. Due to them being locked and chained all the time, they show signs of extreme distress and mental health issues as they move back and forth in their cages.
Having a photograph taken is not conserving the wildlife in any way. They are merely methods of extracting money by these cruel industries to exploit the lives of innocent animals.
In places like the Tiger Park in Pataya, tigers are used as props. There are now around 2,000 captive tigers in Thailand and around 5000 in the US.
Tourists think that the animal enjoys the attention it gets, whereas the reality is far different. The animals are tortured and kept forcefully.
They are afraid of being beaten again and hence just surrender to the handlers.
· We need to raise our voice as a community to respect those who can’t speak up for themselves.
· We need to stop supporting such industries and boycott them as much as possible.
· We can sign petitions and share information on social media.
· Hands on protests are also a great way to show the authorities your concern. This also helps spread awareness widely.
· Refuse to pay for selfies and photos with animals or animal performances. Until this is done, suffering of animals continues tragically.
· Spread awareness and encourage others to avoid taking part in unethical wildlife tourism experiences.
Animals have always seemed to fascinate humans, but it gives us no right to trap them and completely change the way they live. We need to change our ways to cruelty-free alternatives and let them live free.