A new report from World Animal Protection (WAP) paints a bleak picture of wildlife tourism in Bali.
The Wildlife Abusement Parks report presents the results of an investigation into 26 wildlife tourism venues in Bali, Lombok and Gili Trawangan, housing 1,500 wild animals including elephants, dolphins and orangutans.
Of the venues visited, 100 per cent of those with captive elephants, tigers, dolphins or civet cats and 80 per cent of those with captive wild primates did not meet didn’t meet basic needs of animals in captivity.
We asked senior campaign manager at WAP, Ben Pearson why the organisation chose to investigate Bali.
“Bali was an issue for us because its a place where most Australians go. It’s our number one tourist destination,” he said.
“So we thought if we could actually get Australians to stop going to these venues, we would have a measurable impact on them financially.”
Elephant rides, dolphin swims, orangutan selfies and other attractions, such as circus-style shows, are increasingly popular tourist activities for many travellers to the island.
Some of the of most disturbing findings of the animal welfare assessment conducted in November 2017 include:
- All dolphins were kept in severely inadequate conditions – one pool estimated to be 10X20 metres and three metres deep, housed four bottlenose dolphins
- Dolphins at one venue have had their teeth filed down or removed entirely to ensure they are unable to injure swimmers
- All of the elephant venues offered elephant rides, which involve cruel training and expose the animals to stressful situations
- Nearly 15 per cent of elephants displayed stereotypies – abnormal repetitive behaviours – including swaying and foot shuffling. Such behaviours indicate distress and suffering
- All venues with orangutans offered selfie experiences, which put both humans and wild animals at risk
“The most important thing Australians can do is to not go to these venues,” Pearson said.
“Just avoid them. There are so many things to do in Bali that are great and that’s where people should be going.”
According to Pearson, there are lots of wildlife tourism venues that do not engage in cruel practices.
“To be clear, we’re talking about venues where there’s no direct interaction because once you get to the point where you’re holding an animal or riding an elephant, it’s inevitable that there’s cruelty involved.”
“For all tourists, there’s a very simple rule of thumb on this: if you can hold it, if you can ride it, if you can take a selfie with it, no. there’s probably cruelty involved and you’ve got to avoid that venue.”
“There are a lot of really reputable firms out there, World Expeditions, Intrepid, and I’m very happy to name them because of all the great work they’ve done, they offer packages where you can see wild animals and experience the magic of them without contributing to cruelty.”
Pearson also stressed the fact that all travel companies need an animal welfare policy prominently displayed on their website and said WAS is calling on all Australian travel companies to audit their Bali offerings and ensure they are not supporting the venues mentioned in this report.
“When we hopped onto the websites of corporates like Qantas, Flight Centre, and Helloworld, within half an hour we were finding elephant riding and we found the venues in Bali,” he said.
“It’s really just unacceptable and they’re clearly not showing the leadership you’d expect.”
Qantas, Helloworld and Flight Centre have all since gone through their website and taken down references promoting elephant riding, but Pearson said this isn’t enough.
“Obviously it’s more than just elephant riding.”
“I’d love to see Qantas for example, on its flights to Thailand or other hotspots for wildlife entertainment, having something in their in-flight travel magazine which just says here’s a bit of information for you, so when you get to Thailand you can see elephants in a way that doesn’t involve cruelty.”
But Bali is not the only place travellers need to be cautious about.
“Unfortunately all throughout Asia, there are venues where people are going to see wild animals that are held captive, ride elephants do selfies, Africa’s the same. It’s a real concern.”
“We need to get to a point where people understand that wildlife entertainment, going to see a captive animal performing for their benefit, is essentially no different from things like caged hunting, it’s just not ok.”
“If you care about animals, if you care about ethics and have values, you just shouldn’t be going to venues like this, it really is that simple.”