Why animals used at tourist sites make me feel uneasy
News broke recently of a 50 yr old elephant, Raju, being freed by WIldlife SOS after having spent his entire life chained, starved and beaten to beg for money. Thought to have been poached as a calf, Raju survived on plastic and paper for food.
Cases like this are probably more widespread than you think- the Thailand TIger Temple has come under fire over recent years which you can read more about here (which I think provides a very fair account of this bloggers experience volunteering there).
Of course, these animals at these sites are fascinating- allowing you to come up close and touch them in a semi-safe environment. Yet one has to be wary and question whether these animals are ever raised and released, bred in these santuraries or zoos for conservation before release or merely bred for profit.
I have seen camels, elephants, monkeys, snakes and horses during my time travelling used at tourist spots and even had a camel safari but here is where many of us are led to believe that these animals are looked after. During a camel safari that I had undertaken on tour with a company that emphasises responsible travel, I noticed that some were blowing something out of their noses. My research afterwards led me to conclude that they were maggots, usually a result of piercing infections from their nose pegs that go untreated. Is this a sign of neglect or just uneducation and lack of resources and money to treat?
I’ve seen a sanctuary that mostly seemed to be healing animals and keeping animals unfit for release back into the wild however, it still makes me feel uneasy.
Can we rid of animals being used at tourist sites one day or is this something that is so ingrained in tourism now that there is no turning back?
Should there be more local animal welfare groups working with tourism operators to ensure that animals are looked after and educating “owners” of these animals so that they can still continue to operate?
Pictures: Elephants at Amer Fort in Jaipur, India.