You should never do these things


Camel safaris in the desert, donkey taxis in Santorini, monkey selfies in Asia – three examples of, well, animal experiences on holiday. How are the animals? A question to ask yourself. It’s time for an overview of what can be considered on holiday with regard to animal welfare – for all who care.

The attractiveness of travel destinations is often closely related to experiences that are as authentic as possible, including those with animals native to the area. In the best case, the activities of the animals on holiday – in addition to the fun factor – can also contribute to the education on species and environmental protection in the holiday destination and do not conflict with the welfare of the animals.

“Good offers ensure that the welfare of the animals is guaranteed. And as a visitor, you move more environmentally friendly in the travel destination,” says Yvonne Würz from the animal protection organization PETA. Only: Animals often do not fare very well. And travelers often contribute to this by themselves.

Animal Welfare on Vacation: You should never do these things

Photos of wild animals

Animal Welfare on Vacation: Don't Take Pictures with Animals!
Hello human! A handshake with a monkey looks great in the photo, but natural animal behavior is differentPhoto: Rungroj Yongrit/epa/dpa-tmn

Again and again you can see photos of Internet travelers posing with cute little monkeys on their shoulders in front of temples in Asia or swimming with turtles in the sea. The growing self-representation with selfies in social networks has led tourists to increasingly seek to be close to animals, both those in human care and those in the wild. So writes the British tourism association ABTA in its Animal Welfare Guidelines for the tourism industry, which the German Travel Association also recommends to its members.

Many snapshot hunters aren’t even aware that the animals would often suffer, says PETA spokeswoman Yvonne Würz. Tiger and monkey cubs, in particular, often have to act as tourist photo magnets. Wild animals in particular, unlike pets such as cats and dogs, are not used to being in captivity and living with people. In order for visitors to pet them, the animals are often forced to suffer violence from an early age and sedated with drugs.

Constant delivery means pure stress for the animals. Outside of visiting hours, they often lead a miserable existence, locked up in cages or chained, with none of their own kind. Würz, as an animal rights activist, therefore appeals to tourists not to visit zoos or wild animal shows and generally refrain from photo shoots with animals.

Go to zoos or dubious animal reserves

Elephants in Cambodia
Up close and personal with elephants: When looking for images like this, some tourists want to get as close to the animals as possible. If allowed freely, it could be a sign of a rogue shrine.Photo: Robert Günther/dpa-tmn

A more animal-friendly alternative to zoos (read here why you should rather avoid them: that’s why I don’t go to zoos anymore) can be wild animal sanctuaries and protection stations: injured or orphaned animals receive medical treatment there, says Würz . However, there are also dubious suppliers whose establishment only allegedly serves the protection of animals and species. “Sanctuary” or “Auffangstation” are not protected terms – that means: anyone can call themselves that.

The qualified biologist therefore generally advises holidaymakers to inform themselves about the facilities on independent websites or in rating forums and social networks before visiting.

“True sanctuaries prevent offspring because the limited space is needed for animals in need,” says Würz. Nor would they make the animals entrusted to them available for photo shoots, shows or trekking tours.

Ride camels, horses or donkeys without hesitation

Horse riding on Mount Bromo
To Mount Bromo in Java: Horses are available for those who find the climb up the volcano too strenuous. But you should refrain from such offers.Photo: Kathrin Lucia Meyer/dpa-tmn

In some holiday resorts, a rethink towards greater animal welfare has already begun: horse-drawn carriages will be banned in Palma de Mallorca from 2024. The trigger was an accident in August 2022: a tourist filmed how a coachman tried, rather rudely and awkwardly, to straighten a horse that had collapsed in the street in temperatures of about 40 degrees, completely exhausted. The video went viral and sparked outrage.

Camels and horses, which transport tourists in Egypt to the pyramids, for example, could soon be replaced – at least according to statements by the Egyptian tourism ministry to animal protection organization PETA. The introduction of electric cars as a transport alternative should start as soon as possible.

According to PETA, the government promised a ban on transporting people weighing more than 100 kilos by donkeys and mules on the Greek island of Santorini as early as 2018 (TRAVELBOOK reported). The problem: There are almost no controls. The animals continue to suffer from the heavy burden they have to bear on the island’s steep mountains and from general poor care.

In Santorini there is now also a pet-free alternative, the cable car between the port and the famous old town of Firá with its postcard panorama. Here, as in Palma or the pyramids and elsewhere, travelers have everything in their hands, at least not to contribute to possible animal suffering during the journey.

First aid for animals on vacation

And if on vacation I see that an animal under human care is obviously suffering or injured? “Always try to talk to those in charge first,” advises Robert Kless of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). “For example, at a zoo, draw management’s attention to complaints.”

The police are also responsible for any violations of animal protection laws, which can vary from country to country. In many popular travel destinations for German holidaymakers, you can find German-speaking vets and animal welfare organizations online who may be able to help you in such cases.

For tour packages that include questionable animal activities, travelers should definitely reach out to the tour operator and draw attention to it, Kless says. Activities where the animals obviously suffer should be avoided: trophy hunts with rare wild animals, for example, and visits to bloody spectacles such as bullfights or cockfights.

Beware of exotic souvenirs

Snake wine from Vietnam
Snake wine from Vietnam: The import of the alcoholic drink, widespread in Asia, is prohibited in GermanyPhoto: Boris Roessler/dpa/dpa-tmn

Many want a souvenir of the holiday. But exotic souvenirs in particular are often banned, warns animal rights activist Kless: “When traveling it’s important to think about the protection of species.” airport customs. Corals, for example, generally cannot be taken along.

“Only a very few people intentionally take things that aren’t allowed, but rather out of ignorance,” says Kless. And the vast majority are also willing to do without things if they are educated and knowledgeable about the negative effects their actions have.

Also cool: Be wary of holiday souvenirs, as they can get expensive

Good to know: According to customs, the importation of many souvenirs permitted into the European Union requires a valid export license from the country of origin and a Cites import permit by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN).

The general rule is: Travelers should never take live animals with them on vacation, with the exception of so-called flight sponsorships for the further placement of pets from foreign animal shelters.

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