Anne Majumdar

More than 160 travel companies committed to end their offer of venues that allow tourist to ride an elephant or watch them perform over the last year.

Among them are some of the biggest in the world and each day new companies want to be added to this group, World Animal Protection’s head of campaign for wildlife not entertainment Julie Middelkoop told KarryOn.

That wasn’t the only cause for celebration over the last 12 months. At the end of last year, TripAdvisor also confirmed it would stop selling direct contact experiences with captive wild animals, including elephant rides.

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“The announcement came as a result of our engagement with them and over half a million people signing our petition that called upon the company to stop offering wildlife entertainment attractions,” Middelkoop said.

Consumers have well and truly embraced the cause, she revealed, with more than 100,000 in Australia alone pledging to be elephant friendly by avoiding rides and shows on their holidays to Asia and Africa in the past year.

The topic was once again on the agenda at trade show ITB Berlin which took place in Germany last week where travel industry leaders again joined forces with WAP to demonstrate strong demand for elephant-friendly tourist experiences with the aim of promoting venues that ensure better animal welfare and enable travellers to see elephants in their natural habitats.

ITB Berlin

One of the key learnings from this year’s gathering was that the industry must “speak out more” for elephant-friendly tourism, according to Middelkoop who has just returned from the event.

“Collaboration is important as there are different industry initiatives that need to be aligned so as not to confuse tour operator, tourist and the elephant venues who want to make the transition to higher welfare,” she added.

A critical next step is establishing standards for captive elephants in tourism.

Image credit: World Animal Protection

Image credit: World Animal Protection

“The members want to ensure that venues that make the transition to high welfare can be recognized and possibly in future even be certified as good practice camps,” Middelkoop explained.

“We have a big task ahead of us, which none of the group members can do on its own – working together will therefore be key, and World Animal Protection will do all it can to continue to makes sure this is happening.”

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