The world is turning against the exploitation of animals for the amusement of people. This trend is highlighted by the world’s largest circus, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, retiring all their animal acts. They’ve since focused on human acrobats and entertainers to the gratitude of American animal lovers.
In Thailand, the trend is the same. Elephant riding and people having their pictures taken with drugged-up and chained tigers are on the way out. Tourists, both local and foreign, are beginning to avoid these types of blatant animal abuse and choose to visit and support animal sanctuaries instead.
Visiting an Animal Sanctuary
Visiting an animal sanctuary is both educational and exciting. Whether you’re allowed to get up close to the animals or view them from a distance, visitors will learn a lot about the animal’s behaviour and needs.
Most sanctuaries have rules that must be followed by visitors to ensure the health and welfare of the animals. Please follow the rules and respect the job the staff is doing. If you’re told not approach a particular animal, it’s for your safety as well as the animals.
For the most part, you’ll be encouraged to interact with elephants, as they are generally rescued from a working life and are used to being around people. Gibbons, tigers and bears should only be viewed from a distance and left to live their life as they wish.
Choosing a Sanctuary to Support
Most successful sanctuaries in Thailand operate ethically, but a few put profit before the well-being of their animals. But by visiting any sanctuary, you support it through the entry fees you pay. You should look into the sanctuary’s reputation before you visit it.
A few purported sanctuaries are simply animal abusers that have adopted a new business model. Search for sanctuaries that are well-regarded and have earned the support of animal foundations and institutions.
It costs a lot of money to maintain the health of animals, both large and small. Food, medical expenses, land and structures take up a large part of every sanctuary’s operating budget. If you visit a sanctuary that you feel is doing an excellent job in providing a new home for the animals in their care, consider supporting their operation on an ongoing basis.
Most ethical animal sanctuaries in Thailand have membership programmes that allow you to contribute long after your visit.