Have you gone on an elephant ride during some distant getaway because you adore the laconic beasts? That act of communing up close with the animals you adore may contribute to their harm.
Animals held for the entertainment of visitors may be deprived of socialization with others of their kind, forced to live far from their natural habitat or fed an unhealthy diet. Hospitality companies across the country are increasingly taking note — and taking action.
October was a good month for animals — and the tourists who love them.
Early in the month, Airbnb launched "Airbnb Animal Experiences" with an emphasis on ethical encounters. People can go bird-watching in South Africa, or enjoy vegan wine and cheese while visiting rescued farm animals like goats and chickens in Sonoma.
Also in October, Adventure operator G Adventures released an animal welfare policy and a video titled, "Wildlife has the right to a wild life." Also, TripAdvisor announced that it stop selling tickets to " any attraction that continues to contribute to the captivity of future generations of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises)," according to a news release.
Destinations like SeaWorld, which TripAdvisor put on the no-go list, are pushing back, arguing that they rescue animals in distress, help them recover and return to the wild those that can survive. Paying customers help support that work. Zoos, including the Minnesota and Como zoos, spend resources on animal research and conservation around the world and educate the public.
But as more tourists focus on animal welfare, travel companies make adjustments.
Still want to hang out with elephants? In August, Chang Chill opened in Chiang Mai, Thailand. There, elephants that once gave tourists rides now roll in the mud and chomp on trees — enjoying the day as much as the visitors who watch from a distance.
Contact Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.