Intrepid Travel is urging travel agents and tourists to think about responsible tourism when booking trips to see elephants on holiday.
The tour operator has put out a plea for a “rethink on elephant tourism” to coincide with World Elephant Day today (August 12) as it supports the release of a new travel guide.
The new e-guide, by Horizon Guides, urges tourists to consider more carefully their choices to visit elephant parks or sanctuaries on holiday, and make more responsible choices.
Among the tips in the guide, written by leading wildlife experts and charity bosses, are to research tour operators carefully and not rely on user-review websites; opt to see elephants in their natural forest habitat rather than trying to get close encounters with the animals; and use social media to share details of responsible and ethical travel companies.
Asian elephants have dropped in numbers to the point of endangerment as a species - they are at risk of extinction within three generations and a large portion of them live in captivity.
Intrepid scrapped elephant rides from its trips more than two years ago, which it said has led to “a fantastic response” from holidaymakers.
But Michael Edwards, UK managing director of Intrepid Travel, added: “Understandably, many people still want to experience these amazing creatures. There are still ways to have a responsible wildlife experience on holiday. This guide is a valuable tool for agents to share with their customers and ensure they have an understanding of this complex issue.”
Guide editor Cynthia Ord, a travel writer and authority on responsible tourism, said: “Ditch the selfie stick and opt to see elephants in a setting that's as close to their natural forest habitat as possible."
She also urged travellers to think about how they share their elephant encounters with friends on social media.
“When sharing your photos, consider including a note on what you’ve learned, and what your friends should know about the reality of elephant tourism.”
Another contributor to the guide, Monica Wrobel, head of conservation at the charity Elephant Family, called for more support for wild elephant tourism.
She said: “Only when we keep our distance from a wild animal are we truly respecting their freedom. Seeing an Asian elephant in the wild is one of the most thrilling experiences you can have. Instead of visiting a sanctuary or camp, also consider going to a national park.
“It’s up to us to vote with our wallets and demand more in-the-wild observation rather than hands-on entertainment.”
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