I’m duplicating an entry on my touring website’s blog because the message needs to be spread as far and wide as possible.
I’ve just come back from a 10-day trip with tourists and was outraged and saddened at some so-called ‘wild animal encounters’ that these people insisted on doing – and which the agency in their country happily provided, in total ignorance or apathy. I used to think feeding elephants at a specific game ranch in Oudtshoorn was okay but now that I know it’s connected to riding elephants, it’s a complete no-no.
Wild animals that are used for close encounters with humans have been broken from a very young age to stop them from doing what comes naturally – being wild. They are beaten and tortured into submission. They are removed from their parents before their eyes open. They are placed in cages. They are taken to regions where they have to adapt to unnatural surroundings. They cannot find their own food so have to be fed. They are given food that is not in their normal diet. They are forced to do things that are unnatural and are kept in check with sticks and threats. At some stage they become aggressive and have to be ‘retired’ – what do you think that word means for an animal?
They are brutalised by humans for financial profit and then discarded when no longer useful. Some of the places that offer this have the nerve to advertise it as ‘a natural experience’!! The staff have been fed a script to field questions. It’s all complete lies and if you probe hard enough, they will admit it’s not true. Why do they keep doing it? They need a job and it’s hard to find a good one.
Some people are shocked to learn the back-story to these activities and will never do it again but some just don’t care because money is more important. The solution is simple : South African tour operators could simply refuse to book these activities and explain politely why they are refusing. The result will be that reserves and breeders will have no demand and will be forced to stop. It’s as simple as that, isn’t it? Probably not but I will never do it again and will refuse to take such bookings. If I’m with a group and it’s already booked, I will not take part and I will not keep quiet.