A Guide To Animal Sanctuaries
Trips to exotic destinations often come with the irresistible opportunity to visit and interact with some of the world’s most incredible creatures. In countries where tourism makes a significant contribution to the local economy, many make the most out of visitors’ curiosity for local wildlife, offering once in a lifetime opportunities such as elephant rides and up-close-and-personal encounters with tigers. Although animal tourism can be seen to provide great photo opportunities and stories to tell, it often comes at a price much greater than the fee being charged.
For a wild animal to become disciplined enough to interact with humans ‘safely’, it often has to be made victim to brutal regimes of torture, confinement, and doping that reduce the lives of these magnificent animals to years of fear, resentment, and heartbreak.
For those seeking to break the chain of these unethical practices but who still crave the experience of meeting the creatures of the world, a visit to an animal sanctuary provides the perfect balance between animal protection and the creation of unforgettable experiences. Here is my pick of some of the best animal sanctuaries in the world.
The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in Chiang Mai, Thailand gives visitors the opportunity to meet, feed and bathe elephants that have been rescued from cruel tourist attractions that persist in the country. It also protects newborns from becoming subject to Phajaan, a process in which young elephants are taken from their families and are conditioned into submission through beatings, slashing and starvation for up to six years.
For African elephants, the biggest threat to their welfare is the demand for ivory; in 2015, at least 20,000 elephants were killed for their tusks. In Kenya, conservationists at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust provide a home to some of the rescued elephants and rhinos who have been orphaned due to the poaching of their parents and traumatised by the events. The Trust is recognised as one of the most successful rehabilitation programs for orphaned elephants in the world, and at 11 am every day, keepers bring some of the baby elephants to meet visitors who are able to watch and touch them (from behind a rope barrier) while they are fed.
In Bali, Indonesia, one of the most ethical and enjoyable animal experiences that can be had, takes place at the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud. Here, the main ethical concern is about how the grey-haired macaques treat their visitors as opposed to how they are treated as animals! As the monkeys roam freely in their environment they are often more than confident to snatch belongings out of tourists’ hands and even jump on or bite those who don’t give up their goods so easily. The forest hosts over 300 macaques and visitors are able to offer them fresh fruits and vegetables in exchange for their attention, though this transaction is entirely on the monkey’s terms.