South East Asia is home to a diverse culture, lifestyle, religions and environment. From lush forests to paradisiac beaches, this area of the globe is also home to some of the most amazing animals in the world.
Traveling to SE Asia and seeing so much animal abuse is also really easy. Laws are usually not strict and if ever in place, it’s difficult to keep track of who is actually obeying them.
And tourism is unfortunately the number one cause for most of the mistreatment of animals. With such a strong influx of visitors each year, animal circuses or attractions are blooming and there’s still a long way to go to end this sort of culture.
While we did the best we could to not support this attractions, we felt prey to one: to swim with Whale Sharks in Oslob, Philippines.
Without knowing the true impact of the tourism in the area we visited Oslob just to swim with these giants.
Shattered by the experience of witnessing so much disrespect for the wildlife we are sharing now some tips on how not to support animal abuse in South East Asia.
How Not to Support Animal Abuse in South East Asia
Do not swim with Whale Sharks in Oslob
Although the most famous spot to see these beautiful mammals, Oslob is one of the worst sites to do so. Crowds, inappropriate feeding and unregulated staff made this one of the most saddening experiences in our trip. If you want to swim with them, look up for better alternatives like Donsol or even the Caribbeans where you can experience the real deal and be sure to not disturb the life of these highly intelligent animals.
Do not ride Elephants
Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar are the most famous countries to get your ‘Instagrammable’ pics with an Elephant. However, be aware that all elephants (even those who may live in a ‘Sanctuary’) have gone through a painful process to allow people to ride on their backs. This process is called phajaan or in free translation: to break. In this traumatic experience, babies are usually stripped off their mothers and forced submission through extremely inhumane sessions using a hook. Many elephants take a long time to ‘break’ and are locked in chains and tortured until they are submissive to a mahout (or ‘trainer’). If you still want to get up close to the gentle giants, visit a serious and reliable sanctuary that won’t allow riding or any other type of entertainment. Usually you can spend the day and learn about their daily lives while you help bathe and feed these extremely sensitive beings.
Do not take a photo with Tigers
Tigers and other wild animals are usually locked in cages and then doped to be able to stay quiet and submissive. Some are so drugged that their trainers need to keep ‘waking them up’ with sticks. In Indonesia, even some so-called sanctuaries for wildlife do that, so stay away and be aware of any traps.
Do not go to animal circuses
Animal circuses although seem to be diminishing in popularity in the West are still going in most of Asia. Do not, in any circumstance, support these businesses. Animals are locked, beaten, oftentimes drugged and obviously away from their natural environment and communities. No animal deserves to be mistreated in such a way just for our entertainment.
Do not feed wild animals
While in SE Asia we’ve seen many monkeys. They are plentiful everywhere and specially in islands. Still, many of them are very much used to stealing food from tourists or even worst. They are usually being fed by them or by locals who are careless about the livelihood of these animals. If they keep being fed unnatural food, they become vulnerable to diseases and less likely to fend for themselves in the wild, reducing their chances of survival.
Do not purchase animal products
Basically, do not purchase anything that involves killing wild animals. In most countries it’s prohibited to purchase ivory to avoid the killing of elephants. In the Philippines is prohibited to sell anything made from turtles. Still, a lot of animals are killed each year to satiate the buzzing market of illegal trade. Do not support these practices.
If you travel to Asia next time, be conscious of your act as a tourist and consumer. We are the ones responsible to sustain or end this sort of inhumane treatment to animals. We can all make a choice. Please make a compassionate one.
Larissa & Jean