Kind travel (or the hashtag #TravelKind) refers to travellers visiting destinations that don’t exploit or harm animals. With ethical and responsible travel gaining much traction worldwide, it’s only natural that one would think twice before visiting destinations where conservation principles, care and animal welfare is not at its core.
FOUR PAWS South Africa recently launched a digital animal friendly travel guide to create awareness around animal exploitation and hopefully reducing the risk of zoonotic disease transmission. It serves as a guideline for travellers to go about their trips and explorations in a more ethical and responsible way.
In the guide, they also include five recommended #TravelKind True Sanctuary destinations in South Africa. This should evidently help travellers make responsible choices when they want to see wildlife, especially big cats like lions, cheetah and more that have been rescued from inappropriate living conditions like mismanaged zoos, circuses and war zones among others. The guide also provides recommendations on destinations where travellers can view wildlife in the wild responsibly.
According to Fiona Miles, Director of FOUR PAWS South Africa, even though the recommended sanctuaries provide the model solution for rescued animals, human beings should work toward eliminating the need for facilities like these by choosing not to support wild animal exploitation.
Here are some ways in which you can engage in kind travel when it comes to wildlife:
- When photographing wildlife in the wild, respect their space. Don’t support businesses that charge for photos with animals.
- Enjoy animals in the wild where they belong and support companies that offer ecotourism trips or non-invasive photo safaris. Thanda Safari offers an insightful Smart Phone Safari, led by their resident photographer, Christian Sperka.
- Beware of places that offer trips that include trophy hunting, which is a cruel and unnecessary sport.
- Wild animals aren’t pets looking for belly scratches. Holding or petting wildlife is never kind to the animal, despite your best intentions. Close contact with wild animals could cause harm to their environment or to the animals themselves. This goes for stray or feral animals too. Wild animals are wild animals, full stop.
- Feeding wild animals harms their ability to find food the natural way and teaches them to get dangerously close to humans. Don’t do it.
- Sometimes you’ll see animals in ‘sanctuaries’ or poorly managed zoos. If you are worried about the welfare of these animals, report it to your tour operator or a local welfare organisation immediately. A true sanctuary does not breed animals or allow public contact with animals. It cares for the animals for the rest of their lives.
- Elephants are wild animals and can’t be tamed without cruel treatment. Don’t try to ride them or visit businesses that offer this activity.
- Do not buy trinkets or souvenirs made from animal products like ivory and fur. Buying these products encourages animal exploitation and poaching of animals from the wild.
- Don’t support cruel animal exhibits or shows like circuses, performances with marine mammals or any kind of show that involves wild animal performances. These animals are often kept in inappropriate conditions and their performances are the result of dubious training methods based on domination or, at worst, violence.
- Working mules and horses are commonplace in some countries. If you encounter those that are bred for work and are worried about their welfare, report it to a local welfare organisation or your tour operator.
- When you’re travelling abroad, be aware and take care in the presence of animals. Many strays and wild animals are fearful of humans and if approached, handled or attacked, they can pose a real threat to you and your health. Rabies is a serious issue in some countries and can be transferred to humans. If bitten, wash the wound with soap and water, and seek medical attention immediately.
- In some countries, a variety of animals can be found on restaurant menus. Avoid eating at places, including street vendors, that sell dog or cat meat, bush meat (like baboon), and meat from endangered species like shark fins, whale and turtle meat. Many animals endure cruel treatment to end up on a plate and there are also risks to your health with diseases or even poison being present in the meat. This could be due to improper slaughter practices or lack of hygiene.
- Many countries and cities worldwide are providing more and more options for vegetarian and vegan travellers, so do look out for specialised establishments or vegetarian-friendly items on the menu. It helps to familiarise yourself with words like ‘vegetarian’ or ‘vegan’ in local languages. Plus, smart phone apps like HappyCow and Vegman, or sites like Yelp have many recommendations too.
Being kind stretches wider than just your immediate circle of family and friends. We need to be kind to the world and our environment too. Travel kindly.