According to a new report released by World Animal Protection, nearly all wildlife tourist attractions involve some form of animal abuse or conservation concerns and up to 550,000 wild animals are suffering in these venues. The report details the mistreatment of baby animals who are stolen from their mothers, beaten, and abused during training to break their spirits, in addition to other heart-wrenching examples that prove animal attractions are anything but fun for the animals. World Animal Protection details a number of cruel tourist traps, but they’ve deemed the worst venues to be bear, elephant and tiger parks. As animal lovers, it is up to us to protect these animals from harm, but first we need to be aware of the suffering we’re supporting when we buy a ticket. Here is what the report found:

Bear Parks

In bear parks, animals are kept in enclosures, which are quite literally the “pits” – they are sterile, barren, and severely overcrowded. Bears are mainly solitary in the wild and the stress of being so tightly packed with other bears can lead to infighting and serious injuries. The drain of captivity alone lends itself to a number illnesses, including mental disorders. Their environments can also lead to increased susceptibility of bacterial infections and disease.  Sometimes these bears are also forced to dress as clowns and perform circus tricks such as riding a bike or balancing on a ball, in which they are subjected to cruel training methods.


Elephant Rides

Riding an elephant may seem like an innocent tourist attraction, but the animals in this industry are put through unimaginable cruelty for the sake of entertainment. First, the elephants are stolen from their mothers as babies to ensure that they are young enough to be “trained” into submission. Then, they are forced through a horrific process known as “the crush,” which involves restraining babues in a small cage, or tying them in ropes or chains, so that they can only move when commanded. If the elephant does not cooperate, they are struck with a piercing metal bull hook, or wooden bat. This can last for days or up to a week. These horrifying practices are designed to These horrifying practices are designed to “break” the young elephant’s spirit so they will accept people riding on their backs, out of fear of painful retribution.  Sadly, their suffering only continues into adulthood as they are deprived of their close-knit family units that they would experience in the wild. They are kept in chains and in small enclosures for the remainder of their lives.  According to the report, the global tourist hotspot for elephant rides is Thailand, although it is prevalent in other counties throughout Asia and Southern Africa.

Tiger Parks

BREAKING NEWS: Thai Government Seizes All Tigers From Tiger TempleFlickr

Just like with elephants, tiger cubs are separated from the mothers at an early age so that they can be trained to be used as photo props. They are kept on short chains or in small cages with metal bars and concrete floors. Instead of being out in the wild where they belong, they are handled and hugged by tourists for hours at a time, and then locked back in the tiny cells when the parks are closed.  Thailand is a major hub for these kind of cruel attractions, in which the report found 10 venues housing around 614 tigers. One of these destinations, Tiger Temple, which is notorious for abuse, has recently been pressured to retire its tigers after numerous allegations of animal cruelty and wildlife trafficking. Five of the Temple’s tigers have since been released, however, there are still 142 tigers on display and the facility remains open.

There’s More…

These attractions are some of the cruelest industries for animals in the world, but the report details a total of 10 attractions to avoid. Following closely behind the top three worst are walking with lions, holding sea turtles, dolphin shows, dancing monkeys, civet coffee plantations, snake charming, and crocodile farming. One of the most troubling facts is that the majority of people paying for these excursions have no idea what has been done to these wild animals behave in such a tame manner. Thankfully, we can all work to change this.


What You Can Do

One of the best ways to combat the cruel wildlife tourism industry is to educate people about what really goes on behind closed doors. By writing a review, and sharing the truth, on websites like TripAdvisor, you can help inform others of the hidden cruelty behind these attractions. “We need to stop the demand for elephant rides and shows, hugs and selfies with tigers and lions by exposing the hidden suffering behind wildlife attractions. If you can ride it, hug it or have a selfie with a wild animal, then you can be sure it is cruel. Vote with your feet and don’t go,” said Neil D’Cruze, Head of World Animal Protection Wildlife Research. Wild animals are absolutely breathtaking so it’s easy to see why so many people would flock to these parks to get a photo or just spend time with these incredible beings, but no selfie is worth the amount of cruelty that these animals face for our entertainment. Instead of visiting a park where animals are kept in captivity or are forced to work for profits, consider visiting a sanctuary, where rescued animals are able to live free from harm. Would you rather see happy animals than hurt ones? To read World Animal Protection’s entire report, click here.