CAPTIVE ANIMALS DRUGGED, MUTILATED AND RESTRAINED FOR HOLIDAY ‘SNAPS’ UK TRAVEL INDUSTRY SUPPORTS BORN FREE CAMPAIGN TO END ABUSE
Leading members of the UK travel industry have thrown their weight behind a campaign launched by the international wildlife charity, the Born Free Foundation, to stop the mistreatment and misuse of wild animals exploited by photographers in holiday resorts around the world. Investigations by Born Free reveal that wild animals such as lions and tigers are often drugged, mutilated and restrained in order to make them “safe” to handle.
Unsuspecting tourists in resorts and holiday hotspots across the world unwittingly take part in such photo-opportunities, unaware of the cruelty and suffering involved. Clients pay between £1.50 and a staggering £20 for a photograph holding, stroking or sitting on a wild animal. Investigations reveal the disturbing truths behind each ‘cute’ picture: lions and tigers, drugged, declawed and chained to tables; alligators passed from one person to another with their jaws wired shut; monkeys on tight leashes, paraded along beaches and dressed as superheros. These are just some of the horrific practices reported to Born Free.
Daniel Turner, spokesperson for Born Free, explained, “These activities can severely damage an animal’s welfare. They are quite literally a novelty prop, prematurely separated from their mothers, kept in poor housing conditions and when they have outgrown their use, dumped in slum zoos, circuses or summarily killed. In addition, these are wild animals and therefore unpredictable. The hotels or ‘attractions’ rarely inform participants of the risks to public health and safety.”
Alarmed by Born Free’s findings, the Federation of Tour Operators (FTO) which includes some of the biggest names in the UK travel business, has written to suppliers – including resorts and hotels, asking them not to support or encourage these activities. The FTO warned that continuing to do so could mean operators withdrawing their business all together.
Turner welcomed the news, “The Born Free Foundation is greatly encouraged by the decision by the Federation of Tour Operators to support our zero tolerance campaign which aims to stop animal ‘attractions’ and hotel resorts from participating in this form of animal abuse.”
Numerous recorded incidents of direct contact between humans and animals have resulted in injury or even death. No matter whether the animal has been wild-caught or captive-born, juvenile or adult, male or female, wild animals are potentially dangerous and can pose a real risk to any tourists foolhardy enough to have direct contact with them.
The Federation of Tour Operators, the trading name of ABTA Ltd, includes; Thomas Cook Group, Virgin Holidays, TUI Travel, British Airways Holidays, Cosmos, Inghams, Kuoni Travel, Lastminute.com and Allbury Travel Group.
FTO spokesman, Chris Thompson, Head of Responsible Tourism for the Federation of Tour Operators, explained the organisation’s stand: “It is our collective goal to ensure that captive wild animals are not mistreated and misused in any way when they are kept for the purposes of exhibition to, or interaction with our customers during their holiday experience. In particular we are eager to eradicate instances where animals are used solely for the purposes of entertainment without any real benefit to the individual animal or its species. We have asked suppliers with whom we work, to cease the use of animals as photographic props and help us to work with the local authorities to remove similar occurrences in all public places.”
Currently wild animals are used as photographic props in hotel resorts throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, destinations of high tourist concentration in Spain, Romania, Tunisia, Morocco, Sri Lanka and China and in zoos throughout the world. Facilities highlighted in Born Free’s research include: RIU Hotel Resorts and El Dorado Resort Hotels in the Dominican Republic and Mexico, and over 60 other animal ‘attractions’, notably in China: Shenzhen Safari Park, Kunming Zoo and Chime Long Hotel and Safari Park; Thailand: Koh Samui Aquarium and Tiger Zoo, Chiang Mai Zoo, Million Years Stone Park and Pattaya Crocodile Farm, Sri Racha Tiger Zoo, Nong Nooch Botanical Garden, Phuket FantaSea, Phuket Zoo, Samphran Elephant Ground and Zoo, Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm and Zoo, The Rose Garden, Tiger Temple and Wat Doi Suthep Temple; Carthage Land Theme Park in Tunisia; the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, Natural Bridge Zoo and Kalahari Water Park Resort in the USA; and Safari-Zoo Mentz, Rio Safari Elche, Mundomar and Pola Park in Spain.
Daniel Turner, appealing to members of the public for their help, said; “Here at the Born Free Foundation, we investigate captive animal neglect and expose cruelty, working with governments and the travel industry to prevent animal suffering and improve lives of animals. We are sure there are many more facilities that are abusing animals and endangering the public in this way. We need to hear from compassionate members of the public who have witnessed animal cruelty during their holidays and, with the support of the FTO and responsible travel companies, we will do our best to investigate and prevent suffering.