When people have bucket lists they normally consist of at least one or two life-changing experiences, like skydiving or travelling the world, mixed in with the slightly more docile ‘learn a different language’ or ‘learn to dance.’ Having a bucket list is a great idea, especially if you actually accomplish a lot of the things on it, however there are a few activities that should be removed from everyone’s bucket list straight away.
1. Riding an Elephant
We’ve all seen pictures of people riding elephants, all decked out in a pretty rug and saddle with some smiling tourists’ perched on top. For many people, it is an experience high up on their list. But in reality, it should never have reached your bucket list in the first place. Here are a few examples of what the animal goes through and why you shouldy remove it completely:
- Separation: Baby elephants are separated from their mothers (who are then often shot), in order to be captured for domestication.
- No Protection: Once elephants are captured, they are no longer considered under the Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act of 1992 (WARPA) guidelines, and can be treated like any livestock, despite being endangered.
- The Crush: To break an elephant’s spirit and get it to submit, they are put through The Crush: tied up in a small pen, beaten with bullhooks and bamboo, deprived of food and water and taught the basic commands required of them.
- Heavy Burden: Elephants can carry around 150kg, and with a saddle weighing in at around 100kg; this only leaves space for one small person. But elephants are required to carry typically 2 tourists, plus their mahout for the majority of the day. Saddles press down on their spines and ropes will leave sores.
- Loss of Sociality: Elephants live in groups with strong social structures and complex relationships. These are all torn apart when an elephant is put through the crush and then forced to carry people all day.
- Risk of Injury to Humans: Elephants are unpredictable animals, and reports of them attacking their mahouts have been cropping up in the news more and more lately.
Before going to elephant tourism hotspots like Thailand and Sri Lanka, make sure no elephant rides are involved and that the organisation is ethical.
2. Petting a Lion Cub
This applies not only to lions but to cheetahs, tigers and pretty much any other wild cat you can think of. And it includes feeding them or walking with the adults. Here are some of the things these big cats go through and why you should avoid taking part in all those activities:
- Animals Are Raised To Be Hunted: People from all around the world pay large sums of money (US$25,000 – $50,000) to take part in what is known as canned hunting. Unlike a safari hunt, these animals have been denied the chance of a fair chase, by having physical or mental restraints imposed upon it. It therefore almost guarantees the customer a kill: a trophy.
- Mothers Are Bred Excessively: In order to keep up with the demand, mothers are forced to produce a larger amount of offspring than would normally be expected.
- Separation: To get cubs used to human contact they are handled from an early age and removed from their mothers.
- Captive: None of these animals will ever see the outside world. They are bred, reared and hunted in captivity.
3. Swimming with Dolphins
Advertised as an amazing stress reliever, combatting depression and helping pregnant women through pregnancies, swimming with dolphins is seen as a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity. In reality, you may actually be causing the dolphins more harm than they good they may be doing for you. Here is what some dolphins go through and why you should avoid this activity:
- Captive: Dolphins are wide-ranging, social animals, that don’t cope well away from their families. Many die young during capture, transport or in enclosures.
- No Escape: If a dolphin has had its fill of human contact, or if a human is hurting it, there is nowhere for it to swim away in an aquarium. This can lead to dolphins lashing out at humans, causing injury.
- Stress: Captive dolphins can be seen swimming in circles or floating lifelessly on the top on the water, both indicators of stress. Stress can even lead to stomach ulcers.
- Disruption of Natural Behaviours: Even swimming with wild dolphins is not risk-free. Disruption of feeding, resting and nursing behaviour has been recorded in areas where humans swim with wild dolphins.
Take another look at your bucket list; does it include activities like these? The enjoyment you may obtain from that hour of interaction will never be enough to compensate for a lifetime of mistreatment for the animals. Change these activities into volunteering with organisations like GVI, and get close to wild animals without harming them.
Find out more about GVI’s international, award-winning volunteering programmes and internships! Choose from over 150 community development, animal care, teaching, women’s empowerment and conservation projects worldwide!
Written by Jenna Govier. Visit her blog and read more about wildlife conservation around the world.