TripAdvisor, a leading travel website, says it will no longer sell tickets to attractions where tourists come into contact with wild animals or endangered species. The policy change includes, but is not limited to, elephant rides, "swim with" activities involving the touching or riding of dolphins, and the petting of captured wild animals such as tigers.
The company also announces that is developing an educational portal, with the aid of several wildlife protection groups, to inform tourists about animal welfare practices.
"TripAdvisor's new booking policy and education effort is designed as a means to do our part in helping improve the health and safety standards of animals, especially in markets with limited regulatory protections," says TripAdvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer in a statement.
"We believe the end result of our efforts will be enabling travelers to make more thoughtful choices about whether to visit an animal attraction and to write more meaningful reviews about those attractions," says Kaufer.
The company, which operates the Viatour booking service, will stop selling tickets to some animal attractions immediately. The policy change will be fully implemented when educational portal is launched in early 2017.
As National Geographic reports, TripAdvisor has been under pressure from animal welfare groups to steer away from "attractions known to cause animals psychological and physical trauma that can shorten their lives."
National Geographic adds:
"When being trained to carry visitors, elephants go through a 'crush,' which often involves being beaten with nail-tipped sticks and immobilized in small cages. Tigers and lions often are drugged to make them sedate and safer for tourists to pet and take photos with. Dolphins kept captive for tourists to swim with are unable to hunt, roam, and play as they would in the wild, which raises their level of stress and can result in behavioral abnormalities."
Viatour says for several years it has prohibited travel bookings where wild animals are killed or injured for blood sport. TripAdvisor already bans reviews for businesses promoting attractions such as bullfights or captive hunts.
TripAdvisor says its new policy includes exemptions for activities such as horseback riding and children's petting zoos, as well as aquariums, zoos or sanctuaries where there is supervised physical interaction with an animal.