TORONTO — Intrepid Travel said it wants to lead the way in animal protection in the tourism industry and is encouraging travellers to take action to become animal friendly tourists.
The Australia-based adventure travel company ended elephant rides and visits to entertainment venues on all of its trips earlier this year, following an extensive three year research process to assess the welfare of captive elephants at entertainment venues in Asia.
The research was conducted by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) with the support of Intrepid Travel, which has worked with the animal charity since 2000.
Asian elephants are highly endangered and tourism demand has led to venues where elephants are forced to do unnatural performances, said Intrepid. The research concludes that this causes pain and suffering to the elephants, and that the tourism industry has added to the number of elephants being poached from the wild.
“We applaud recent moves in the tourism industry to end elephant rides,” said Geoff Manchester, Intrepid Travel Co-founder. “Responsible travel has been central to how we’ve run Intrepid for 25 years and as an industry we can do more to help protect wild animals from cruelty.
“The issues are complex around animals in captivity, which is why Intrepid has been partnered with WSPA for many years, and have been able to tap into their expertise on animal protection.
“Our focus is on educating people, and teaching local communities about animal welfare and environmental conservation. While we once included elephant rides or entertainment venue visits, we’re now working with rehabilitation and sanctuary facilities. We hope that the increased patronage to commendable venues like this will help encourage others to lift their standards.”
According to Intrepid Travel, the change has been popular with travellers. “Intrepid travellers want to know that their travel choices are not causing harm and appreciate learning how elephants are cared for without seeing them do unnatural performances,” said Manchester.
WSPA’s Dr. Jan Schmidt-Burbach added: “Wild animals belong in the wild – not in entertainment. We welcome all progress within the tourism industry towards recognizing this fact and taking action to prevent cruelty.
“Helping people to understand the choices they can make whilst travelling can create positive experiences for them and for the animals that they encounter along the way.
“WSPA urges all tour operators to support animal friendly tourism and to help every customer make animal friendly choices when travelling.”
Intrepid Travel is encouraging travellers to seek animal-friendly travel options in order to drive industry change. Travellers can download Intrepid Travel’s elephant welfare guidelines here: http://cdn0.intrepidtravel.com/sites/default/files/51033_Elephant_Welfare.pdf.
Over the past 11 years, The Intrepid Foundation, Intrepid Travel’s not-for-profit fund, has donated over Can$430,000 to animal and wildlife conservancy projects including Friends of the Asian Elephant in Thailand and Animal Care in Egypt.