Travel companies are being urged to take responsibility and put an end to the exploitation of wildlife in entertainment venues.

Intrepid Travel and animal welfare organisation World Animal Protection have collaborated to provide operators with an animal welfare policy toolkit that is customisable and free for download from the Intrepid website.

The aim of the initiative is to create an easily accessible way for tourism companies to implement more ethical wildlife practices into their businesses.  

The toolkit includes information on how to draft animal welfare policy and an editable animal welfare policy.

As many as 550,000 wild animals are enduring suffering at tourist entertainment venues globally, according to World Animal Protection.

Activities such as riding elephants, taking photos with tigers, lion walks and dolphin performances are examples of tourist attractions that can cause lifelong trauma for wild animals.

The impact of Covid-19 has made the situation worse, with at least 85 elephant camps in Thailand forced to close as a result of the pandemic. 

World Animal Protection launched an appeal to help some of these venues so they can at least feed and take care of their elephants for the next couple of months. 

Intrepid Travel chief executive James Thornton said: “The Covid-19 crisis has provided our industry with an opportunity to redefine what tourism looks like once travel resumes and to use this time to forge a new path for a more responsible, sustainable and ethical future.

“We must put real action behind our words, and as operators who facilitate experiences all around the world, it is our responsibility to protect the environment and all of its living species.

“The very least we can do is ensure our practices are not causing harm to the wildlife who call the destinations we visit home.” 

Audrey Mealia, global head of wildlife at World Animal Protection, added: “We are at a turning point when it comes to our relationship with wild animals. For too long, these intelligent, sociable creatures have been the victims of a cruel trade, just to entertain tourists on holiday.

“Wild animals are destined for a life of suffering and brutality behind the scenes, cruelly as entertainers under the guise of innocent fun for visitors. Tourists are duped into believing they are helping wild animals and the conservation of the species, while in reality they are creating the demand for such activities.  

“The tourism industry has come to a halt in the wake of Covid-19 but it will re-build – this is the ideal opportunity to build a better future. We are calling on the tourism industry to revise their wildlife policies and stop offering exploitative experiences to their customers once and for all.”