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7 Ways to Be an Animal-Friendly Traveller

Many tourists may not be aware how their actions on holidays can harm animals. These tips will help ensure your next family holiday is guilt-free!

A tiger in the wild
A tiger in the wild

1. Choose ‘observation’ over ‘interaction’

If you want to witness wildlife at its best, observe them in their natural habitat – the wild. Do your research and visit a country or region that’s home to your favourite animals and enjoy an authentic glimpse of them from afar. If that is not possible, your next best option is to visit a genuine wildlife reserve or sanctuary to observe animals in a natural environment. But make sure to avoid venues that disguise themselves as sanctuaries, including those where touching is allowed and captive breeding takes place. 

A koala on Magnetic Island in Queensland. Image Tourism and Events Queensland
A koala on Magnetic Island in Queensland. Image: Tourism and Events Queensland

If you want to spot some cute koalas, Magnetic Island, on the Great Barrier Reef, is the place to go. If you want to see elephants playing in their wild homes, Sri Lanka has the highest density of wild Asian elephants in the world. You can head to Uda Walawe, Wilpattu or Minneriya National Parks to see them.

2. Avoid close encounter experiences

If the venue you visit offers elephant rides, tiger selfies, walking with lions, holding sea turtles, swimming with dolphins or similar interactions, animal cruelty is often involved. For most activities, such as elephant rides, animals are forced to perform. They are trained through cruel methods such as being beaten into submission, followed by a life in captivity.

A humpback whale breaching beside a tourist boat in Hervey Bay. Image Tourism and Events Queensland Vince Valitutti
A humpback whale breaching beside a tourist boat in Hervey Bay. Image: Tourism and Events Queensland / Vince Valitutti

Instead, choose to visit places like the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, where you can spot six of the world’s seven species of sea turtle, including green turtles off Green Island. You can also catch a glimpse of dolphins and whales happily exploring the ocean at the world’s first Whale Heritage Site in Hervey Bay.

3. Never shop for souvenirs with animal products

Purchasing souvenirs for family and friends back home is tempting when on holiday. But it is crucial to avoid buying products that involve animal suffering, such as handbags made of crocodile leather, bracelets made of ivory or jewellery made of coral. Instead, it is best to stick to ethical and humane alternatives and opt for locally produced, environmentally sustainable souvenirs free from animal products. They are thoughtful gifts and help support local communities and contribute to the conservation of wild animals and their natural habitats.

Swim with turtles off the coast of Green Island in Queensland. Image Tourism and Events Queensland
Swim with turtles off the coast of Green Island in Queensland. Image: Tourism and Events Queensland

4. Say no to cruel local dishes

Many places have delicacies that tourists are tempted to try. But it is always good to research how a certain dish is made and make an informed decision about consuming it, as many can result from extreme animal cruelty. Products of extreme animal cruelty include shark fin soup, frog legs, foie gras, tiger wine, and civet coffee (kopi luwak).

5. Visit a nature conservation project

Wild elephants in a river in Sri Lanka. Image Depostiphotos
Wild elephants in a river in Sri Lanka

Visiting or volunteering at a nature conservation project is a wonderful way of helping our planet’s wildlife while you travel. There are many wildlife-friendly venues that you can visit that are home to rescued wild animals. These places will leave you with a special experience as you can observe animals’ natural behaviours and watch them play and roam in a safe and natural environment. If you love tigers, Ranthambore National Park in India, part of a national conservation initiative, is worth visiting.

6. Pick a responsible travel company

Before booking your wildlife-friendly trip, it is vital to ensure that the company you are making your bookings through takes animal welfare seriously. For example, if the company offers bookings of close encounters with wild animals, chances are it is not wildlife-friendly. Avoiding these companies will help reduce the demand for such cruel tourist activities and help keep wild animals in the wild, where they belong. Companies that have taken positive moves towards protecting animals include Intrepid and Adventure World.

African wild giraffes
African wild giraffes

7. Share your stories and ethical travel adventures

Share your story with your friends and family if you encountered an animal in the wild that left you with lifetime memories. Sharing your experiences witnessing wildlife in their natural environment will inspire others to do the same. If you come across a venue where you suspect animal cruelty, report it to local authorities, and share your experience with other travellers because many people will visit a low-welfare attraction without knowing they’re supporting animal cruelty.

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