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Captive Wild Animals in Tourism

By Amanda Marks

Throughout the world, wild animals are kept captive by mankind for diverse reasons. This has been the case for many hundreds of years. Sometimes there is a genuine, positive reason for this (such as caring for a baby elephant orphaned by poachers; the protection of the last remaining individuals of a near-extinct species, eg the northern white rhino; wildlife rehabilitation and rescue centres), but all too often the only real reason is for the gratification of humans. Wild animals are used as our entertainment.  

At Tribes, we try to stand firm against things that we believe are wrong. Yes, we are a business, but we like to think that we are helping to improve standards in the spheres we work, rather than adding to the problems. On the whole, captive wild animals are something we can’t condone, and our reasons are set out below. 


Whales and dolphins in aquaria and dolphinaria

We are of the opinion that cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) in captivity can never be happy. The deprivation they suffer both physically and mentally is significant, and their use in performance, entertainment and interaction with humans should not be continued. As a company, therefore, Tribes does not condone such venues, and recommends that travellers avoid them so as not to continue the demand for such entertainment.
Family holiday

Wild animals in circuses

It’s relatively rare that travellers are invited to a circus, but if it happens, and if that circus has wild animal acts, we’d strongly recommend that you do not go. We believe that captive wild animals should not be used as entertainment.
Family holiday


We do not promote visits to zoos. We understand that there is often a conservation argument put forward by zoos, however, zoos where conservation is the main focus are few and far between. Most zoos simply show wild animals which are captive for human entertainment.
Family holiday

Selfies with wild animals

In many places where there is tourism, there is someone touting monkeys, ocelots, giant anteaters, sloths, snakes … so that they can make money from tourists who want selfies with cute or rare animals. The problems with this are two-fold: the animals have frequently been poached from the wild, and they are rarely cared for suitably or sensitively – cruelty is common in order to keep them subservient to their ‘owner’. Please do not encourage this practice.
Family holiday

Elephant riding

We do not condone elephant riding. Please read more about this in our article here.
Family holiday

Walking with lions

By walking with or petting or having photos taken with hand-reared or tamed lions, cheetahs or other predators, you are most likely an unwitting part of the horrendous industry of ‘canned hunting’. These creatures almost always end up being shot by hunters in enclosed areas - for pleasure. We’ve written an article with more detail about this and you can read it here.
Family holiday

Ostrich riding

This strange activity is offered in South Africa, mostly in the Outdshoorn area. We do not condone this. Ostriches were not made to be ridden, and their spines cannot cope with the weight of humans. It causes pain and skeletal damage in the long term.
Family holiday

Dancing bears

Happily this is rarely seen these days, but if you do come across it, please do not encourage it in any way by taking photographs or stopping to watch. Any bears under such unnatural control have been (and probably still are) cruelly treated.

What can you do to help?

  • AVOID:Please don’t encourage any of these activities that exploit wild animals.
  • SHARE:Many people are unaware of such issues. If you can, please share a link to this page to get the message out.
  • ADVISE US:Let us know if you come across any wildlife activity that causes you concern on our holidays so that we can address this.
  • TAKE ACTION: to help the charities that are backing animal welfare. – One of the longest-running UK animal charities, they educate, research, influence, and generally do all they can to help animals. Donate, fundraise or volunteer. – a foundation which aims to facilitate the release and rehabilitation back to the wild (or near- wild) of captive orca. They welcome donations for their work. – protecting and conserving cetaceans and their habitats. – Sign up to this charity’s Wildlife Selfie Code.

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