Seven Animal-Related Tourist Experiences to Avoid

A group of tourists walking with captive lions.
Walk with Lions Experience at the Ranch Resort by Quadtripplea. CC BY-SA 3.0

Animal-related tourism is big business. Many people are willing to pay money to take selfies with sloths, ride elephants, pet tigers, and walk with lions. Unfortunately, some of these ventures are unethical, requiring animals to live in abusive conditions or contributing to biodiversity loss.

On December 4 of last year, Patricia Maunder released an article on that lists seven animal-related tourist experiences that no one should ever do. These experiences have a high probability of being unethical, and paying for them drives the mistreatment of the animals involved. These seven experiences are:

  • Elephant experiences, like riding and bathing elephants.
  • Interacting with apex predators, such as cub petting and walking with lions.
  • Holding wild animals, often for the purpose of taking selfies.
  • Wild animal shows, AKA circuses that feature wild animals.
  • Swimming with captive dolphins.
  • Buying souvenirs that are made from wild animal parts.
  • Eating bushmeat, which is meat from wild animals.

In her article, Maunder goes into considerable detail about the seven experiences listed above. She explains in which countries and continents they are most problematic, why they are often bad for animals, and how to distinguish ethical wildlife-related experiences from unethical ones.

All-in-all, Maunder’s story is a great read: it is full of useful information, it is well-written, and it will help travelers to make good decisions about where to spend their money. Please, click the link below to read the original article. While you are at it, why not share Maunder’s piece with any travelers you might know?

Click here to read “Ethical tourist wildlife experiences: Seven animal experiences tourists should never do” by Patricia Maunder

36 Thoughts

  1. Interesting topic! I’ve actually seen a wild animal show…I think? At the NYS fair there used to be a sea lion show where they taught the lions to do tricks like balancing balls and whatnot. Looking back those sea lions probably would have appreciated a bigger setup and a life full of sunbathing on the rocks rather than entertaining people all day. Shows like that have definitely declined in popularity since documentaries like Blackfish exposed animal amusement parks for the animal cruelty that happens behind the scenes. One question for you though, I’ve seen some short vids on instagram of lions “recognizing” old trainers and hugging them. Can lions really hug people? Or are they just trying to mal them?!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Jess! I imagine that not all wild animal shows are abusive, but enough of them are that it’s probably best to avoid them. Blackfish was a great documentary, and a great example of the power of art.

      I know of the lion-hugging videos you’re talking about, but without knowing more about the stories behind them (meaning the FACTS, and not the legends), I can’t really say too much about them. It could well be that the lions were jumping up on people they recognized and liked, much like dogs do to the people they own. However, I’d never, ever recommend anyone try to keep a big cat – or even a small, wild cat – as a pet. Such animals belong in the wild, and could cause serious harm without even trying to.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. Thanks for this! Not surprised captive dolphins made the list. I’ve heard/read a lot about the negative side of the captive dolphin industry since in Jamaica where I’m from, this business (Dolphin Cove) is BIG business and holds massive tourist appeal. I hope to see them closed but I doubt it’s happening any time soon unfortunately, unless our tourists become more aware of the cruelty in keeping these intelligent mammals in such cramped quarters. Our environmentalist groups are currently swamped with trying to get our people to save our beaches by stop eating/buying parrotfish, a ban law our government has yet to pass & something I can’t even persuade my own father to stop doing. So Dolphin Cove isn’t leaving any time soon. In fact they recently opened a 2nd facility. :(

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m sure accidents have already occurred, in which people become injured during animal-related tourism experiences. While it’s never good when people get hurt, as you pointed out it’s often animals that pay the highest price for humans’ mistakes.


    1. According to Maunder’s article, the problem with elephant-related tourist experiences is that in many cases, the elephants are kept in unacceptable conditions when they’re not ‘in use.’ The training used to get elephants to perform or be handled by tourists can also be cruel, although I assume that’s not the case 100% of the time.


    1. Well said, Hargun! Yes, I’ve been seeing more and more articles telling people about the dark sides of some animal-related tourist experiences. This will hopefully prompt travelers to do more research before giving any money to these sorts of attractions.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think have done all but one of those things probably because we have no dolphins here and the sea to us, is as imaginary as the sea of tranquility and might as well as be on the moon…..
    I have had to rethink some of these things to see how they scale on the ethical metre, I can see how it could drive and bolster abuse but in the same vein this is all how some funding for conservation projects comes from so where is the line drawn?
    I guess I might have to read the whole article to get a more contextual feel on this

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, reading the whole article would definitely help. I’d assume that most of the money spent on these sorts of tourism activities doesn’t go to conservation, but to the companies that are running the animal-related enterprises. That might be where the line is drawn: to what extent do animal-related attractions actually benefit creatures in the wild?

      Have you never seen the sea then? If not, it basically looks like a giant pool of water…lots of water.


      1. Yep, funds normally wind up lining the pockets of those who own/run such estiblashments. How much does it cost to put a big ol fence around the wild and say yep, we are preserving this here area, thats that and thats that and laugh all the way to the bank, as yo use words like population control when asked about trophy hunting………

        whats an ocean but an multitude of droplets of water,
        Ours is a landlocked country and my sojourns to neighbouring countries havent as yet taken me close to the edge of the continent but its on my to do list, oh I did see Lake Malawi though and its quite vast one could be forgiven for thinking you have seen the sea.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, the whole topic of fencing is one I don’t understand very well, because it’s quite different to how we manage most protected areas in the US. Some conservationists claim that fencing is very good for Africa, because it keeps people and wild animals separated from one another. I’m not too sure though…I’d have to actually go to Africa and speak to people who live near fenced-off reserves to really understand what this is all about. As for population control, if one fences off an area of bush then it might look like that artificially-created patch is over-populated, when it truth the trophy-hunted species are endangered.

          I imagine looking at Lake Malawi is pretty much the same as looking at the sea…water all the way to the horizon.


    1. Yea, that whole animals in captivity thing is why I have mixed feelings about zoos. Some zoos do a great job of teaching people about animals and supporting actual, in-the-field conservation work, but it always makes me unhappy to see animals in cages. Still, good zoos are probably worth it.

      Liked by 1 person

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