A move to improve the wildlife welfare standards in tourism by an international travel website has been met with support by the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) in South Africa.
Last month, TripAdvisor announced changes to its policy on selling tickets to animal attractions and the launch of a new education portal that would “help inform travellers about the standards of care for wild, captive, and endangered species in tourism and their interactions with tourists and their impact on wildlife conservation.”
The statement read: “TripAdvisor and its Viator brand will discontinue selling tickets for specific tourism experiences where travellers come into physical contact with captive wild animals or endangered species, including but not limited to elephant rides, petting tigers and swimming with dolphin attractions.”
Some of these attractions would cease booking through TripAdvisor immediately, but both the education portal and booking policy changes would be fully implemented in early 2017.
TripAdvisor users could also expect information on animal welfare practices and views from experts in sustainable tourism and wildlife conservation.
The NSPCA said in a statement issued last week that this decision by TripAdvisor was “groundbreaking” and demonstrated that the “movement away from the use of animals in forms of entertainment is gaining momentum”.
The NSPCA further expressed its belief that wild animals belonged in the wild and should be viewed in their natural environment as the animal welfare organisation sent a strong message that activities that compromised the welfare of animals and those that were for entertainment were exploitative and profit-making.
“The NSPCA firmly believes that there is no educational value in petting lion cubs or having photographs taken while holding or beside wild animals,” the NSPCA said.
“Walking with or riding elephants or other wild animals are activities which the NSPCA opposes on welfare grounds. Interactions of this kind have no benefit to the animals. Of concern is what may have taken place behind the scenes to train and/or ‘tame’ them.”
Gauteng-based nonprofit company Ban Animal Trading, which focuses on local investigations into animal abuse and neglect as well as deals with educational outreach, also praised TripAdvisor’s initiative. In a post on their Facebook page, the organisation said: “This is a huge step in the right direction – thank you, TripAdvisor!”
TripAdvisor president and CEO Stephen Kaufer said: “TripAdvisor’s new booking policy and education effort is designed as a means to do our part in helping improve the health and safety standards of animals, especially in markets with limited regulatory protections.”
He said it was hoped that the move would educate travellers on matters of animal welfare. “We believe the end result of our efforts will be enabling travelers to make more thoughtful choices about whether to visit an animal attraction and to write more meaningful reviews about those attractions.”
– Caxton News Service