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How to be a responsible tourist: Say no to Animal Trekking & Tours  

Last week Frontier looked into what it means to be a responsible tourist in regards to animal welfare issues concerning big cat sanctuaries. Today we will be looking at trekking and tours involving animals and their role in responsible travel. To engage or not to engage in activities involving animals could be a difficult decision to make, and the aim of this article is to inform you, the reader, to better enable yourself to make your own choices while enjoying your trip.

Animal Tours

The majority of people reading this article may have seen a photo or two of someone riding an elephant, either on a tour or as part of an attraction encouraging a photo opportunity. The appeal of trekking through a jungle environment while riding one of the largest land mammals in the world is certainly notable, but as elephants have never been explicitly domesticated at any point in human history, how are these noble creatures corralled into this un-natural behaviour?

Image courtesy of Paul Arps

Sadly this weeks’ article returns to where this practise is most prevalent: South East Asia. Elephants born into captivity are taken from their mothers and subjugated to physical and mental abuse while enclosed in small cages, until their bodies and spirits are crushed in such a way as to be submissive to humans. The elephants are then persistently ridden daily, often without respite to such relent that in some cases pregnant elephants have given birth while on a trail. This practise has spread due to its popularity in South East Asian countries to a few countries in Africa, where the larger African elephant species is an even bigger risk to the safety of tourists keen on saddling up.

Image courtesy of Shankar

Equine and Camel Tours

There are other cases of animals being used in a working environment for tourism purposes that a responsible tourist should be aware of. Equine tours operating in many countries across the world can be a wonderful way to enrich a travelling experience, but should be a consideration for a responsible tourist for several reasons. It is likely that the animal involved will be a critical source of revenue for the owner and operator of the tourist attraction or activity, so it is important to be aware of how hard the animal is being driven.

Image courtesy of Sharon McKellar

What can I do to be a Responsible Tourist?

Some critical points to consider before partaking in an equine trek are: the health of the animal, whether the animal is capable of supporting your weight based on its comparative size to you, speaking out both against mistreatment and for good treatment of the animal, and always make sure you pay a fair price so the owner does not need to over work the animal for his living. As well as horses, donkeys and mules, camels should also have these simple rules applied to each individual animal before being considered for a ride or trek.

Image courtesy of John Pavelka

How can Frontier help me travel responsibly?

Frontier operates the South Africa Horse Adventure. The project offers any horse lover the opportunity to work on an authentic horse ranch, learning husbandry, equine care and taking part of horse treks in the stunning surroundings of South Africa. This project is a wonderful way to enjoy horse riding and care in an ethical and well managed environment, in a beautiful setting, ensuring every tourist who takes part on a horse trek has an enjoyable and responsible experience.

Hopefully this article has raised awareness of animal welfare issues abroad, and as a responsible traveller, you are now better equipped to make an informed decision. Next week Frontier will be looking into sporting events and cultural traditions involving animals.

Don't worry, you can still volunteer at animal sanctuaries and be a responsible tourist at the same time. There are a lot of decent projects out there looking for a helping hand. Why don't you become a wildlife volunteer in South Africa? Or help elephants in India? The opportunities are endless. Frontier runs over 300 dedicated conservationcommunityand adventure projects worldwide.

See more from us and our volunteers #Frontiervolunteer