Education or profit…

During our holidays, we like to be surprised and entertained. We are installed in our hotel room and use our search robots to find out everything our holiday destination has to offer.

As animal lovers, we might be just a little more alert if we are offered a ride on the back of an elephant, or that you can have your picture taken with the company mascot the lion or bear at that restaurant.

Fortunately, more and more people sense that something is not quite right. But despite the stricter European regulations, you cannot escape the fact that elsewhere in the world animal laws are not handled as well.

But how do you know whether your holiday activity is harmful to animals and the environment?

Wild Animal Photo Props

Clever Branding

These days, animal activity providers throw around different terms that too often confuse us. Terms like sanctuary, shelter and conservations quickly make us think these are eco-friendly places. Stories of animals rescued from the tourism industry, logging or mistreated animals given a better life should make us believe that these attractions or experiences are positive. BUT this is far from always the case. Sometimes these are for-profit organisations that breed animals in captivity and attract tourists under the guise of animal welfare. So you think you are supporting a good place, when this is not the case at all. An important guideline for this is: if you are allowed to hug, touch or walk with animals, there is always animal suffering behind it.

Also critical en-route
Atractions with wild animals

At various stops where we, KLM crew, may stay, not everything is fluffy.

Whether zoos are still acceptable has been a debate for years, but the night zoo in Singapore (SIN), for instance, aims to disguise things by luring visitors during the dark evening hours. Under the guise that you would be able to see all the animals, they think it is justified to put the animals in even smaller enclosures. Dusk often has to disguise the outdated pens and perks where the animals are often neurotically stressed for our display.

Even the aquariums where dolphins (LAS), sea lions and even orcas (MIA) have to perform their tricks still sell full shows daily.

But vigilance is also required initially with less extreme and exotic animals.

Consider the buggy rides in central park (NYC) where the horses and carriages might make very long days

How about the beautiful historic city centre of Cartagena (CTG) ? According to cruise liners, a must-see from a coach.

Indeed, a colleague has revealed that he has written a letter to the Colombian Tourist Board denouncing this. According to him, these horses are often too skinny, suffer from heat stress and pull too heavy outdated carriages (not to mention the number of passengers and ballast of the average American cruiseline tourist). Also, walking on century-old cobblestone roads and abrasions from rigging that does not fit properly means that these animals still have to do their work with injuries.


There are also nasty reports on our “Blueplanet” about horse rides in Quito (UIO). Colleagues are highly questioning the condition of the horses at Cotopaxi. Bloody girth spots and mouth corners are not taken seriously by the owner. It has already been reported to our tour regulator Lex.


Get to know the organization

It is important to know what kind of organization you are booking something with or what attraction you are visiting. For example, is an organisation certified and do they work in an ethical way? And are the animals well cared for and protected?

Do good research on the organisation or attraction. Questions you could ask the provider of an activity with animals in this regard are:

What is the purpose of this attraction?
How is it ensured that animals have a good life and can display their natural behaviour?
How is it ensured that animals stay healthy?
How does the activity affect local people and other people?
How is the natural environment taken into account?
How will animal safety be ensured in the future?

As WFA, we are collaborating with Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand and Born Free Foundation.

Want to know even more about this issue, or how to report this animal suffering? Click on the link below and read more on the “Vier Voeters” page.