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TripAdvisor halts sales for animal tourism including elephant rides

10/14: MoneyWatch

TripAdvisor (TRIP), the world’s largest travel site, is halting ticket sales for elephant rides, selfies with tigers and other tourist entertainment deemed cruel to animals.

TripAdvisor and its Viator brand will stop selling tickets for travelers where tourists come into physical contact with captive wild animals or endangered species, including elephant rides, petting tigers, and swim with dolphin attractions, the company said in a release Wednesday. The company wants to help “improve the health and safety standards of animals, especially in markets with limited regulatory protections,” stated Stephen Kaufer, TripAdvisor’s president and CEO.

To raise elephants submissive enough to safely give rides to tourists, baby elephants are often taken from their mothers when young and beaten during training for their future work, according to World Animal Protection.

The move comes less than six months after the London-based animal welfare group started petitioning the company to join efforts to protect wild animals from being treated cruelly in the tourism industry. TripAdvisor’s announcement is “a significant step towards ending elephant rides, tiger selfies, swimming with dolphins and other forms of cruel tourist entertainment,” said the charity, which began lobbying against cruel wildlife entertainment in 1991, ending bear dancing in Greece, Turkey and India.

The group lists riding with elephants, taking tiger selfies, walking with lions and holding sea turtles as among the world’s cruelest wildlife attractions. 

While some attractions will cease booking through TripAdvisor immediately, the company plans to have both an educational portal and booking policy changes fully-launched and implemented by early 2017.

Viator has for several years supported animal welfare standards in its booking policies, including a ban on travel where captive wild animals are killed or injured for blood sport.

TripAdvisor will continue to book tickets for trips involving horse back riding, children petting zoos with rabbits and other domestic animals, as well as aquariums, zoos and sanctuaries were there could be some touching or physical interaction with animals, it said. 

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