The topic I want to adress today are the tourist attractions and activities where animals are involved, for example riding on an elephants back, walking and taking pictures with big cats, cage diving with sharks and many more. It’s a topic that we’ve encountered many times in the past few years and one that makes me sad, angry and often quite disappointed at the same time because it’s so easy to avoid.
I always wonder how so many people actually visit those places where animal cruelty is the norm without looking behind the scenes or questioning anything at all. I guess that is because most of them don’t know or don’t want to know what is going on or maybe it’s just more important to get your awesome shot with a wild animal to show friends back home than to think twice about what you are supporting at that moment.
To make you understand what i’m talking about, I want to explain the whole business using the sad tale of the so called ‘blood lions’ as an example.
It all starts when the newborn lion cubs are only a few days old. They are taken away from their mothers – that often live in captivity to start with – to be either sold to volunteer programs, or to petting zoos, where tourists can interact with the cubs, take pictures and cuddle with them. The volunteer programs are the most perverted though. Heaps of young people come over to africa with the intention of ‘protecting the wildlife’, spending – their parents – fortunes to ‘help’, thinking that they play a productive part in efforts to reintegrate these estranged lions back into the wild at some point. Or they just straight up arrive in one of the petting zoos where tourists can interact with the cubs, take pictures and cuddle with them paying up to 1500€ a week!
Almost every operator will claim that the animals that they’ve got are wild animals that where saved from some dangerous situation. They are now being taken care off and they’ll be released back into the wild at some point of the program.
Well, i think that it is at this point where everyone should become a bit suspicious about the whole operation. Often, sadly, the reality doesn’t work that way. And to be fair, it’s pretty straight forward that you can’t reintegrate a lion into the wild that has had such close encounters with humans and is used to be petted and fed.
But let’s leave the cubs be cubs for a minute. Let’s look at what happens to many of the lion cubs when they get older and aren’t that sweet anymore.
That’s when they advance to the next stage of the business model. They are being sold to an array of different companies where tourists can go on walks with the animals, taking them on a leash and basically taking them around like a dog.
These lions will have to walk with dozens of tourists every day, or endure hours on end of tourist groups taking pictures petting them/feeding them or similar things. And the worst part is that they are usually drugged to be a smaller risk for the visitors.
When they finally reach maturity and get too dangerous to be near the precious tourists they advance to stage three of the business model. The lions are then sold to shooting farms where big game hunters – or just everyone with sufficient funds really – from around the world can boost their ego by shooting these poor animals.
In addition to them being used to people/cars and seeking out humans out of habit, they are often drugged to oblivion and contained in small enclosures to limit the hunters chance of missing his crucial shot. What an achievement it must be to kill a lion that way…
So there you have it, the ‘king of the jungle’, so full of strength and beauty in the wild, now being tortured and abused. The whole process is nothing more than a huge money making industry, profiting at every stage of a lions life from cub to adulthood. The whole business has nothing to do with nature conservation, nontheless many people believe that they do good when they leave their money at one of the many ‘conservation projects’.
All of this is just a short summary of the whole business and, of course, a generalization. There are companies that are actually trying to make a difference and some people are involved and raise their voices for the conservation of the lions. Sadly though, there are not a lot of them out there and many of the tour operators are black sheep. I just hope that you guys will remember this little story during your next travels and maybe you’ll twice about joining an activity which includes wild animals, or look into the company beforehand. Please share this story with your travelling friends as well.
Let’s try to help keeping wildlife wild and free.
If you want to get involved in positive projects, check out Kevin Richardsons conservation efforts over at his website as he’s probably the most prominent figure of lion-conservation worldwide