Friday, April 17, 2015

Posing With A Lion Cub, And Other Ethical Animal Travel Decisions

Getting close the a wild animal on your travels sounds exciting. I have seen lots of photos posted on Facebook by my friends, and other bloggers, with pictures of themselves sitting beside an adult tiger or cuddling a lion cub. And these snaps ARE pretty impressive.

If you can allow your eyes past the chain around the tiger's neck.

But is it right?  Are wild animals meant to be cuddled by humans? Are you helping, or harming them, by doing this? Is this something you want to take part in, really, when you are travelling the world, collecting experiences?

I hope these are questions people ask themselves more and more, as these opportunities present themselves all over the world.

The Thailand Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi has been in the news this month, with authorities looking to close it down due to mistreatment. Stories of the animals being drugged, chained very closely, taunted and teased with food have existed for some time.

Then there is the Giraffe slayer who has been recently internet-shamed by Ricky Gervais, for posting of her recent kill - an activity people all over the world seem to get excited and outwardly proud about. There are many instances of people hunting, killing and then posing with animals. But almost always, these are contrived situations where the odds are stacked against the animal for the tourist's benefit.

In Cambodia, just outside of Phnom Penh, you can go to a shooting range, and I understand you can pay $100US (well, this was the talk back when I was living there) to shot and kill a cow with an AK-47. I am always stunned that people take this up, and then brag to the world about their "feat".

My time being driven through Kruger National Park and seeing the wide range of animals living and interacting with their natural environment, was incredible. Going with a tour guide who was a conservationist, and so evidently a lover of the animals she observed from her vehicle, was brimming and admirable.

This was how wild animals are meant to be living. Co-existing, hunting for their own meals, living in the food chain of the jungle. Natural.

Our guide was respectful of the animal's space, habits, habitat and behaviours. Careful, and cautious, so as not to disturb. A perfect, real, and exhilarating experience as a tourist.

Whilst I was planning some time in East London, I actually looked into visiting a place for that super cute selfie with a lion cub.

A couple of us starting reading up on these places around the country, and were quickly horrified at what we found about the industry.

I read articles about the industry of these "petting parks". Where they bred these lions to be sold to the many private reserves around South Africa. The parks where tourists can come and sign up to hunt and kill them, in closed off designated land for this purpose. A canned hunt, it's called.

Bred to be petted as a cub, and then confined to an area ready to be hunted down and killed by tourists.

No, I don't want any part of that supply chain.

The differences between conservation and mistreatment need to be investigated as you travel around, looking for unique experiences. Up close comes at a cost - to the animal.

Leaving only footprints, take only photos from the places you visit - but considered, ethical ones, that do not endanger, or support the death of that animal and others like it.


  1. I don't understand the woman who shot the giraffe. Why would you want to shoot such a beautiful animal? Although I don't really understand hunting for sport at all.

    1. Ugh, same! In writing this I read an article where she was defending herself, and standing by her kill achievement.....and there is no way I could be convinced!


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