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With summer coming up, a lot of us will be going on vacations or even on study abroad trips. In August, I’m headed to Thailand for the semester, and I’ve been doing a lot of research about things to do while I’m there. Some of the most popular tourist attractions around the world revolve around animals, and honestly, we really need to talk about it.

There are a lot of amazing experiences you can have around animals while you travel. Whether that’s whale watching, scuba diving, or playing with elephants, there are awesome memories to make and things to see. However, there is a major issue with animal cruelty in the travel industry. The University of Oxford reviewed almost 200 wildlife attractions on TripAdvisor and found that 75% of them involved some kind of animal cruelty. Do we really want businesses profiting off of animal cruelty? Here are some of the top wildlife attractions to avoid while you travel.

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Riding elephants

First of all, the elephants have to be trained to do this, and often they are taken away from their mothers as babies and abused and broken down to be forced to be ridden every day. Elephants aren’t meant to have that much weight on their backs anyway. They’re kept on chains and can’t interact with other elephants, which is extremely detrimental for their physical and psychological wellbeing.

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Performing dolphins/whales

If you haven’t seen Blackfish, watch it ASAP. I promise you’ll never want to even think about SeaWorld again. They’re abused and kept in tiny pools. Can you imagine living in a bathtub your entire life? Whales in the wild swim around 140 miles a day, but there is video footage of whales at SeaWorld floating in place. Also, orcas in the wild have a life expectency of 30-50 years, or even up to 70 years, but at SeaWorld, on average they live to be 14. There’s a million more things that I could go on and on about, but you get the point.

Cuddling tigers/lions

This is honestly just so stupid. Tiger and lion cubs are often taken from their mothers, put on chains, and sedated for tourists to take pictures and with and hold.

There are ways to enjoy wildlife tourism responsibly! Volunteer at elephant sanctuaries, where formerly abused elephants are rescued and rehabilitated. Go on a whale watching tour, not at SeaWorld. View wildlife in the wild rather than in captivity.

Whatever wildlife tourism attraction you want to experience, do your research. Always make sure that the company or business you’re giving your money to invests in responsible and ethical wildlife tourism.

Hi I'm Ally! I'm studying journalism and dance at the University of Kansas.
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