To be honest, I am not sure how to start this post. I do not want to feel preachy, I don't want to call anyone out, or anything along those lines. I want to learn and teach. I am in no means an expert, I am just passionate.
Some of you saw my insta story earlier this week and a few of you even sent in your own thoughts (Thanks!) about my thought on writing a post on animal tourism. I, along with most other travelers, love me some elephants, tigers, or any exotic animal, but I lean on the side of weary when thinking about interacting with them while traveling. The main reason I site for doing this is claiming these beautiful creatures are not here for our entertainment. Whether it is zoos or circuses on a more local scale or visiting tigers or elephants in Thailand I am weary of it all. Is the word "Sanctuary" in the title of the organization? Don't care. I really don't. Oh, and if you have a picture of anything like this on your tinder, the pace that I swipe left would make your head spin.
What sparked my final outrage to bring this to my corner of the internet is what Instagram has made of this sort of tourism. I kid you not, one travel-grammer I followed (I unfollowed her the second I saw this picture) posted a pic of her spooning a 10 month old tiger in what seemed like a 20 feet X 20 feet cage. Her caption immediately demonized anyone who might feel outraged that this tiger was shot up with heroin (which is still a thing...cuz they are wild animals and will eat you if they aren't on drugs), because the tiger was only 10 months old and just wanted a hug (no heroin involved). HUNTY, no. Drugs or not you are spooning with a wild animal, in a cage, who would kill you in the wild. Nothing about that is ok. On top of that I have seen bloggers with 100k+ followers go into pet stores in Japan* that caged animals to buy, like owls, and grammed about how cute it was. No. Just the other day a blogger with 300k + followers swam with what seemed like wild sting rays in Bora Bora. I mean it looked like a dream, and if they were wild and freely swimming with her unprovoked (I will get to my thoughts on that shortly) then I do not really see an issue. BUT as an influencer with more than 300k followers it would have been great to see a shout out on what it mean to be sustainable when experiencing animal tourism. When you are at that level, put this information out there. People will listen.
Which leads me to when I do choose to interact with animals while traveling. Pretty simple- ethically in the wild. Last winter I went with my dear friend to swim with some Manatees in Florida. As an animal lover it was one of the best experiences of my life. The animals were unprovoked and the team we went with was small and had the animals best interest in mind. Other animal encounters I have not X'd out are:
1. Any type of diving/snorkeling that is humane (ex: I would like to swim with whale sharks, but some places lure them in so much with food that it basically becomes a low key Sea World. I looked into doing in in Philippines and after doing some research a lot of places feed the animals so much that they rely on it for their main sources of substance that they will not migrate like other pools, in turn messing up their mating cycles and less babies are being born. If anyone knows of good places that are not like this in the Philippines let me know!).
2. I would also love to go on a Safari. I have done some extensive research and when I become an instagrammer with 300k followers it will be my first stop ($$$).
3. Lastly, I want to see those dang deer in Nara Park. Yes you feed them, but research I have done is that their livelihood is still great. If anyone has different info send it my way.
For those Devil Advocates out there that might find something wrong with any of the above please let me know, I want to hear all info out there that I might be missing.
What do you guys think?? Would love to hear your pros and cons. I know my outlook is extreme, but I am never opposed to an intelligent conversation if you feel differently! Let me know in the comments below.
*No hate to Japan, pet stores always suck.