A life short-lived in confinement for the benefit of ones Instagram photo is not the best trade deal for the exotic animals you see in ‘Wildlife Selfies’. Although it might seem to be an amazing ‘one of a kind’ experience for the tourist it’s the animals forced to pose for your gratification that get the short end of the stick. Animal tourism has become a concerning epidemic threatening the wellbeing of exotic animals, partially in South East Asia where Tigers have been at the head of the concern.
While you think that picture of you riding an elephant in Thailand will do really well on Tinder, the animal cruelty behind it is a bit of a turn-off.
Posted by Re: on Thursday, 8 February 2018
The demand for an exotic animal ‘experience’ has become increasingly popular amongst western tourists visiting Asia on the hunt for the best stories & photos to share of their holiday back home. Unfortunately, behind closed doors these attractions using wild animals to lure tourists are places of exploitation and suffering.
It is estimated that globally wildlife tourism attractions condemn around 550,000 wild animals to appalling, mostly unseen suffering. Because the pain and distress is largely hidden, visitors are usually oblivious to the horrific abuse and conditions endured for tourist entertainment. – World Animal Protection
These animals are being used as exotic props for the online gratification of many Aussie tourists whom pay for the experience of ‘playing’ with a baby cub or posing with a tiger. These money-making facilities exploit their star ‘attractions’ and glamourize the experience of meeting a captive wild animal. The reality of these institutions goes beyond their exploitation with many of the predator animals like tigers been drugged to sedate them into conforming for tourists to interact with them. Animals in these facilities are treated and displayed like products on their website to illicit profits for their captors.
Non-domesticated wild animals are abused to conform to their daily crowd pleasing routines such as performing, posing or growling for selfies. Animals in these circumstances are also kept in tiny cages and are denied the development of any natural instincts.
World Animal Protection (WAP) have done detailed studies and undercover documentations of this inhumane epidemic focusing on Thailand from 2015-16. Through these investigations WAP have uncovered some startling information;
Statistics and Facts from World Animal Protection
Amount of Tigers in Captivity -“Our researchers uncovered an expanding industry with
up to 830 tigers kept in captivity at venues using tigers for entertainment in Thailand in 2016.” -WAP
Conditions of Living – “A total of 400 (75%) of the 535 observed tigers were kept in cages below 20sqm space per animal for most of the day and night. Another 10% were kept in small enclosures between 21 to 130sqm and usually shared the space with several other animals. Often these cages were concrete- ground cages or barren enclosures. The animals had limited access to fresh water and adequate veterinary treatment.” – WAP
Inhumane Living– “Based on the welfare scores for each venue, up to 674 tigers (82% of the reported tigers) were kept at venues with animal welfare scores of below 5, suggesting a lifetime of misery for these tigers. The remaining 18% of tigers were kept at venues with scores of 5 or 6. Although this indicates slightly better conditions it is still a far cry from meeting the tigers’ needs. In the wild female tigers roam from 16 to 32 kilometres in a single night.” – WAP
Illegal Body Part Trade – “The 2016 Tiger Temple case revelations highlight how captive tigers may be not only legally bred fortourism, but also bred for the illegal trade in body parts. Government officials found 70 tiger cubs in glass jars and in freezers. They also found tiger skins and large numbers of amulets made from tiger bones, teeth and fur. The Temple also failed to account for three missing government registered tigers.” – WAP
Tiger Cubs– “Venues typically separate new-born tiger cubs from their mothers within two to three weeks of birth. They then hand- raise them artificially and allow tourists to bottle feed the cubs from only a few weeks of age. It must be assumed that the early removal of tiger cubs serves also a second purpose: to enable the venues to breed from tiger mothers more frequently. The separation causes both cubs and mother great stress. In the wild they would stay together until the young tigers are about two years.” – WAP
Stress – “Twelve percent of the tigers we observed had behavioural problems. These included stereotypic or overly aggressive behaviour such as repetitive pacing or biting their tails. These behaviours most commonly occur when animals feel they cannot cope with stressful environments or situations.” – WAP
Tigers in captivity suffer every day. They are poked and prodded into unnatural poses for 'wildlife selfies.' Don't be a part of this picture. Sign our Wildlife Selfie Code today: http://ow.ly/ee7430i9Evv
Posted by World Animal Protection Australia on Tuesday, 6 February 2018
“A ‘bad’ wildlife selfie is an image or post in which a wild animal is being held, touched, restrained or baited for the purpose of being a photo prop.
A ‘good’ wildlife selfie is where any image or post of a wild animal in which there was no direct human contact and the animal was not being restrained or in captivity to be used as a photo prop.” – WAP
Red Flags from ‘Sanctuaries’ and ‘Rescue Centres’
Many ‘sanctuaries’ or ‘rescue centres’ are also sinister tourist attractions in which exploit the presence of exotic animals for profits. To be sure you don’t participate in an animals suffering look for Red Flags.
- Be cautious of a sanctuary claiming to work on ‘conservation’ if they have no prior confirmation any animals have ever been released into the wild. Wild Animals that have been ‘domesticated’ to interact for these selfies cannot be released back into the wild as they possess no natural instincts in which afford them survival in predator/prey or land domination interactions with other animals. Animals brought up in captivity also do not have the ability to hunt for their food as they are brought up being fed by humans, missing out on this crucial development of these wild animals which can be fatal if released under similar circumstances. True conservation facilities do not release animals bred in captivity that have been conditioned against their natural instincts and do not attempt to profit from the animals in any way that may put the animal at risk of stress.
- If Animals are being used by captors to elicit profits through performances, selfie posing or any other form of entertainment this is a clear indication of exploitation of the animals and is also a huge red flag.
- Facilities that use weapons like bamboo canes and wooden sticks to ‘tame’ animals into submission or performance acts are an indication of cruelty as these weapons only work when animals associate the threat of the object with pain.
- I also have a personal rule that I will not participate in any use of an animal (wether that be for food, entertainment or Instagram likes) that I would not be comfortable having inflicted upon a human or myself.
Social Media Apps Promoting Change
Social Media and Tourism apps such as Instagram, Tinder and Trip Advisor have made dramatic improvements to the governing of how ‘Wildlife Selfies’ and Animal Tourism is promoted on their sites.
Instagram has now created a pop up warning system that alerts members of the potential harm to animals when searching hashtags involving wildlife exploitation. Hashtag examples include #tigerselfie #elephantriding #dolphinkiss #slothselfie to name a few.
In 2016 Trip Advisor stopped selling tickets to Animal Tourism activities through their site and have created an online portal that shares information of the treatment of animals in tourism. When a traveller opens an attraction from the animal tourism industry the activity will be listed with a paw print emoji and the words ‘features animals’. When you click on that link you are met with a pop up explaining the feature of animals which prompts readers to learn more on their online portal.
Tinder has also taken a stand by releasing a blog post requesting users stop posting ‘Tiger Selfies’ after pressure from Peta to “removing the tiger stripes out of tinder swipes”.
What Can I Do Now?
If you have any of the following social apps- Facebook, Tinder or Instagram you would be familiar with the holiday snaps taken by tourists or even friends posted online with an exotic wild animal. If you have a friend or family member that has participated in this, or will be visiting Asia soon with the intent of getting a ‘Tiger Selfie’ please tag them in this article.
What do I do if it is me that has unethically participated in this? Take your photos down and do not over glamourize the experience to others in stories or image captions as this will encourage others to follow suit. Remember, although it may have been a once in a lifetime experience for you your service fee was an assurance of the continuation of that tigers suffering. Instead use your experience as an opportunity to open discussions about what you saw, your new understanding and what you have learnt since the event.