Explore DolphinsBlog

Shining a Light on Wildlife Tourism

The people, the landscape, the wildlife: three of the most important things that make a destination unforgettable. Which probably explains why so many tourist experiences involve animals. But wildlife tourism has a murky and complicated reality. Animal attractions might be an income source for locals, but there’s more than money to consider in this equation. With different cultural attitudes to welfare at play across the world, being certain that there’s no mistreatment or suffering can be hard. When you turn up to swim with dolphins, spot whales or ride an elephant, how do you know what impact it’s having on the individual animal and the wider wildlife community?

With wildlife attractions encompassing animals in captivity, in sanctuaries, in the wild, at work or as entertainment on the streets, there are lots of opportunities for them to be treated behind the scenes in ways you wouldn’t ethically hold with.

At STC Expeditions, we’ve worked with World Animal Protection to devise a code of conduct that means our travellers can enjoy wildlife experiences with the assurance that animals are treated fairly, humanely and respectfully. There are some experiences we never, ever undertake on welfare grounds. These include:

  • Riding elephants
  • Walking with lions
  • Dolphin shows
  • Animals used as props

When we do include a wildlife element to an itinerary, we know how deeply impactful it will be on students. But we believe wild animals like lions, tigers and elephants should remain wild, so we take the chance that sometimes we’ll spot them and sometimes we won’t. To ensure traveller and animal have the best possible experience, we:

  • Only visit sanctuaries and conservation projects sites that are for the benefit and rehabilitation of the animals.
  • Only visit regulated national parks with qualified local guides, following strict guidelines on conduct.
  • Only undertake whale or marine-life spotting trips with providers registered with the World Cetacean Alliance. Marine conservation projects will have external accreditation confirming they are of intrinsic benefit to the species they work with.

There are many positive and constructive experiences to be had in cooperation with local organisations and individuals seeking to conserve and protect wildlife. Those are the experiences we look out for, in the knowledge that they’ll be educational, eye opening and rewarding. And we always conduct a review before we head off on a trip to make sure everything meets our exacting standards.