Published on : Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Responsible Travel announced that it will no longer be promoting trips that include visits to zoos on its website. The online travel company and pioneer in responsible tourism has removed six trips from its site, the first travel company to publically make such a move.
Responsible Travel and its customers have always been strong advocates for wildlife and conservation and until now has only included a small minority of trips in its collection which focus on volunteering programmes to help improve zoos. However, following Liz Bonnin’s important 2016 BBC Horizon programme: Should we Close Our Zoos? and consultation with the wildlife charity the Born Free Foundation the company has decided that there is no longer any justifiable reason for keeping animals in captivity.
The negative impact of life in captivity on animal welfare has long been recognised. There is increasing evidence that some animals kept in zoos develop abnormal behaviours that are not seen in the wild, as a result of frustration or stress. Such behaviour includes repetitive pacing, or head-bobbing and swaying in species such as elephants and bears.
Responsible Travel believes there are many ways to educate people about wildlife in the wild that do not require animals to be kept in captivity.There is also little or no evidence that seeing animals in zoos makes people become active conservationists.
Whilst some zoos do fund worthwhile conservation programmes, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums encourage their members to commit just 3% of their expenditure to conservation.
Many zoos argue they are breeding centres for endangered species. However 90% of animals kept in zoos are not endangered.
Justin Francis, CEO at Responsible Travel said:
“We believe tourism plays a role in funding conservation, and crucially, in ensuring local people and governments benefit sufficiently to make conservation viable. “Zoos are not appropriate in 2017. They are relics of the past, and the arguments to justify keeping animals in captivity no longer stand up. “The sad reality is that the animals are held captive primarily for our entertainment not for reasons of conservation and it is time that this stopped.”
Responsible Travel’s primary focus is enabling people to see animals in the wild in ways that support conservation of habitats and species. Ensuring local communities benefit economically from wildlife tourism is an integral part of that. Responsible Travel’s wildlife holiday sales have grown by 25% in the last two years.
The move has the support of prominent animal welfare campaigner, actress and Born Free Founder Patron, Joanna Lumley OBE who said “It only takes one to create a movement for change and it is fabulous to see a travel company being brave, sticking their heads above the parapet and saying that in 2017 keeping animals in captivity purely for our entertainment is just not acceptable.
“There are so many superb ways to learn about and appreciate animals in the wild; we should be encouraging people to get out into nature, not watching wildlife behind bars. I hope that more companies will follow this excellent example”.
Will Travers OBE, President of international wildlife charity, the Born Free Foundation, said:
“The world is changing. Things that seemed impossible only a short time ago are now within reach. In my lifetime, a global shift in public consciousness, a movement, may see – if not an end – a massive reduction in the exploitation of wild animals in their millions in thousands of zoos worldwide.
“If this happens, and I believe it will, then it will be in no small measure due to visionary travel company, Responsible Travel, that has removed zoo visits and excursions from its itineraries. Working with Responsible Travel for many years, Born Free has been able to advise, inform and encourage what I regard as a profound shift in travel industry policy, that movement for change will grow and grow as millions of people and thousands of responsible companies do the right thing.”
Responsible Travel is urging its tour operator partners to follow suit and asks travellers to think twice before visiting a zoo.
The company will still promote legitimate animal sanctuaries and rescue centres for animals that cannot be returned to the wild; wildlife conservancies and National Parks; and rehabilitation centres where animals are looked after and then returned to the wild. However, no captive breeding should take place in these facilities. The website will also continue to promote genuine endangered species conservation centres.