Wild animal tourism in numbers
Number of elephants in captivity worldwide – a quarter of the total number on the planet
of captive adult elephants used for tourism entertainment have been taken directly from the wild
Number of captive tigers in the US alone. In the wild there are just 3,200
Estimated number of bottlenose dolphins being used for entertainment worldwide
Number of visitors to SeaWorld San Diego in 2012
Approximate number of lions kept and bred in captivity in South Africa – double the number of those in the wild or natural reserves
A leading animal charity is calling on tourists to think twice before they take part in wild animal experiences, as part of a campaign to expose the hidden suffering behind many attractions. Mike Baker, chief executive of World Animal Protection said: “What we need to do is alert people to the wildlife suffering in this industry. We don’t want that once in a lifetime experience to be a lifetime of misery for the animal.”
The campaign by World Animal Protection draws on research that found almost half of people pay for a wild animal experience because they love animals, but they remain unaware of the abuse that goes on behind the scenes.
The charity is also launching a guide to being animal friendly on holiday, which includes advice on what to ask a tour operator before booking and things to look out for when you are abroad. However Baker says tourists should also use their common sense.
“If an animal is doing something it wouldn’t do in the wild then it’s probably not right and something has gone on to make them behave that way,” They’re chained up, beaten. And what we’ve realised is most people don’t want that.”
Another form of wild animal tourism that has become particularly widespread in recent years are parks or “sanctuaries” where visitors can pose for photos with tigers – popularised by the “tiger selfie” trend. This is similar to experiences in which tourists can walk with lions. According to World Animal Protection, both these types of attraction involve removing cubs from their mothers at a young age, where they are beaten and punished to train them. In some cases the animals are drugged to make them more compliant.
Other types of wild animal experiences the charity hopes to end are swimming with captive dolphins and dancing macaques shows.
“This report is the first time we’ve been able to confirm the reality of these practices and underpin it with research,” says Baker. “We’ve also realised the scale of it.”