You and I know that shows with dolphins, or watching how elephants play football, or even climb on one of them to go for a little walk, are not responsible tourist activities. Neither you nor I could think about organizing something like that for our trips because we don’t identify with that.
However, there are very subtle activities that hide practices that are not very respectful with animals, which you find without looking for them and you find yourself having moral dilemmas about how to act: Should I do what everybody else does or should I take a step back?
Let me explain myself. During my recent trip to Perú, on a tour between Arequipa and Chivay, going through the Reserva Nacional Salinas and Agua Blanca (by the way, a fantastic route to watch vicunas walking around free), we stopped in a field (we and more buses and vans) where the tour guide told us we could take photos with the llamas that a shepherd brought expressly for tourist. And added the tagline: “Before we leave, give the shepherd a tip for making us the favor of bringing the llamas here”.
I was unable to take any photos. I watched the spectacle of people trying to take selfies with a llama until it looked at the camera. And if with one llama they couldn’t make it, they just went with another one. And yes, the llamas are very nice and domesticated animals, but they also get mad if you annoy them too much, they kick and spit.
When we got back to the van, a guy said “We already played the tourist”, to which another lady answered him with “We have come here to play the tourist, didn't we?”
Next day, same tour guide. Before we stopped in the Maca town, the tour guide told us that usually there are some men there exhibiting hawks, so the tourist can take photos in exchange of money and to please not do that because they are protected animals and they hunt them without permission.
What difference does it make between an animal and another one? The fact of them not being protected already gives us the right to take photos with them? We can tip a shepherd that takes his flock expressly to pose for photos with tourist, but not tip the ones that exhibit hawks?
In another trip, this time to Costa Rica, I visited what in theory I was told it was a wildlife recovery center. One of the first animals we got to admire were the toucans. As you may know, they are very pretty and colorful birds. I noticed they were locked in a very small cage, but still they allowed you to enter to take photos with them. Here I already saw something weird and I just watched from a distance.
Once we visited the first cage, the guide (external to the fauna center) asked the group the following question: “Do you really think this birds are here to recuperate?” And so it was repeated for all the cages we visited: snakes, frogs, cougars, etc. All the animals seemed to be in perfect conditions. Well then, it turns out it wasn’t a wildlife recovery center but they had the animals there locked up to do business with them.
Those of us who like animals, we enjoy admiring them in freedom, in their natural habitat. There are many companies that offer sightings of birds or other animals ensuring that they don’t suffer. You can even accompany the shepherds to transhumance, or go see a flock in their natural habitat while doing a one day excursion. The other way is just treating animals like a mere show just to earn money.
If you have doubts about the activities you want to do with animals in your trip, don’t hesitate on getting in touch with us. We offer you the best counselling so that you can enjoy with a clear conscience.
Have you encountered practices that are not very respectful of animals during your trips?
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