Captive tiger
Image: Richard Clark

Last year, World Animal Protection came out with a list of the 10 cruelest wildlife attractions. It came as a shock to those of us that weren’t aware of what was going on behind the scenes; after all, we visit wildlife attractions because we love animals so much.

The problem is, it’s hard to tell what attractions are genuinely worth our support, and which we should avoid like the plague.

The truth is harsh: In most interactive attractions, animals are taken from their mothers as babies, kept in confinement, and in some cases, tortured into submission.

chained elephant
Image: Vinoth Chandar

But you can help. If enough of us avoid these types of attractions, there will be no reason for them to stay in business.

Here are three red flag attractions to boycott while you’re adventuring:

1. Attractions that allow you to handle or take selfies with the animals:

Consider the stress levels of a wild animal that is caged, passed around, petted and used as a photo prop all day, every day.

Think about what their life would be like in the wild.

Jeremy Smith of the responsible tourism website“ Travindy says, “Lion cubs raised to be petted by tourists are often shot upon adulthood because their contact with humans has made their survival in the wild impossible.”


2. Attractions that force an animal to exhibit an unnatural behavior:

Think performing circus elephants, dancing monkeys, and dolphins and whales jumping through hoops. These animals are highly social, yet they are separated from their close-knit family groups and unable to naturally interact with one another.  When not performing, they’re kept in confinement, either with ropes and chains or in cages.

Performing monkey

3. Attractions that let you ride an animal:

Perhaps one of the cruelest attractions in existence, elephant riding subjects these sentient beings to years of pain and suffering.

captive elephant
Image: Pukka Projects

“To make elephants submit to giving rides, they are taken from their mothers when babies and forced through a horrific training process known as ‘the crush’… This process ‘breaks’ the young elephant’s spirit so they will accept people riding on their back or other direct contact between tourists and elephants.” World Animal Protection

How can you put an end to these industries? By stopping yourself from going, and encouraging others to do the same. These places only stay open because tourists keep visiting.

tiger cub
Image: World Animal Protection

Unfortunately, we can’t rely on websites like TripAdvisor to tell us which places are reputable or not.

A scientist from World Animal Protection lamented, “Some of the most concerning types of wildlife attractions received overwhelmingly positive reviews from tourists.

Avoid the red flag attractions above. Educate others. Do your research. You will be helping to end these cruel industries, and saving lives in the process. For the Top 10 List of Cruelest Attractions, see this report by World Animal Protection.

Want to add your name? Sign the petition here: