Saturday 20th December 2014                 Change text size:

The ethics of elephants in tourism, global guide released



Photo: Matteo via Flickr

Ethical online travel agent, reponsibletravel.com released a global guide on elephant welfare in the tourism industry on Monday. The guide aims to help travellers make informed decisions when booking trips involving experiences with elephants.

In the world’s first online guide, Elephants in tourism – right or wrong? addresses issues around the ethics of visiting elephant sanctuaries and taking part in trekking. The guide offers information to help readers make informed decisions and was developed after a consultation with tour member operators, local experts and non-governmental organisations.

The research has prompted a decision by the travel agent to no longer promote elephant riding trips in the company’s holiday collection.

“We hope this guide will become a leading resource for travellers concerned about the ethics of visiting elephant sanctuaries and taking part in elephant rides around the world,” said managing director Justin Francis.

“For us, it has resulted in the decision to no longer promote elephant riding trips on responsibletravel.com or any trip which includes the opportunity to see trained elephants perform for the public.”

The British based company will promote elephant treks in exceptional cases, such as trips with conservational benefits to other endangered species.

The guide includes details on places to see elephants in the wild as alternatives to viewing captive elephants. Discussion about elephant safaris for conservation of other endangered species and also opinion pieces regarding how possible a future without elephant trekking and performing is, are also included.

Francis added, “We believe endangered elephants will continue to be taken from the wild as long as the tourist demand for such activities remains in place, and chains and unethical training methods will continue to be used to control the elephants around tourists.

“I very much hope to see a gradual process of change in the way we as travellers approach elephant-related tourism”.

The company was started with backing from Dame Anita Ruddick, of the Body Shop, and promotes responsible tourism that helps local economies and the environment.

A report released last month by wildlife trade organisation, Traffic, found wild elephants in Myanmar are being cruelly trained and sold to the tourism industry in Thailand.

As part of Blue & Green Tomorrow’s month-long celebration of sustainability, a sustainable tourism debate will be taking place on September 3 at the Museum of London, discussing if the future growth of tourism is ‘desirable’. Tickets are available here.

Photo: Matteo via Flickr

Take our 2014 reader survey and you could win an iPad, Kindle or donation to a charity of your choice.

Further reading:

Elephants in Thailand brutally trained for the tourism industry, investigation reveals

Global leaders agree in London to tackle illegal wildlife trade

Campaigners call for tourism conference boycott over captive dolphin experiences

Call to stop London Zoo evening events amid worries over animal distress

Sustainable September to ask ‘is the future growth of tourism ‘desirable’?’


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