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Animal Animal WelfareRights, Travel Tourism

Investigation sheds light on the dark side of wildlife tourism in Bali

World Animal Protection 3 mins read
Bullhooks used on elephants during rides at Mason Elephant Lodge and Park. Credit: Andito Wasi

Bali is a dream destination for Australian and international tourists alike, but a new investigation has revealed that the island’s wildlife entertainment venues are a nightmare for the animals.

A new Holidays that Harm report by global wildlife charity World Animal Protection has found that over 1,300 wild animals, including elephants, orangutan, and dolphins, are being exploited for tourist entertainment in inadequate conditions across Bali and Lombok. The majority of the venues investigated didn’t even meet the basic needs of the wild animals being kept there.

The investigation also found that despite increasing demand for responsible tourism options, many of the world's largest tourism operators are selling low-welfare wildlife venues in Bali and do not have policies to ensure they are not profiting from animal cruelty at the venues and attractions they sell.

An assessment of 34 venues was conducted, aiming to provide a current picture of the welfare of wildlife in the industry and identify any changes since World Animal Protection’s 2017 assessment of the wildlife entertainment industry in Bali and Lombok. That previous investigation led to major travel companies like Helloworld and Flight Centre removing the venues from their offerings and stopping the promotion and selling of elephant riding overall.

Suzanne Milthorpe, Head of Campaigns at World Animal Protection said:

What may be an island paradise for tourists is a captive hell for more than a thousand wild animals trapped in shockingly inadequate conditions across wildlife entertainment venues in Bali and Lombok.

“People go to these venues because they love animals, but they are unaware of the hidden cruelty behind the scenes, with many animals taken from their mothers as babies and forced to endure cruel and intensive training to make them ‘safe’ to interact with tourists. 

“During our investigation we saw wild animals suffering for selfies, and it’s driven by tourist demand and lack of ethical policies by travel companies.

“While we are seeing a global shift in attitudes towards wildlife in entertainment, with most travellers wanting to do the right thing, the complicating factors of over-tourism, misleading conservation claims from venues, and lack of robust travel company policies make it hard for tourists to make a choice that reflects their values. As a good rule of thumb – if you can ride, hug or have a selfie with a wild animal, there is cruelty involved, so don’t do it.

“We urge the tourism industry to take responsibility for the activities they promote, and work with us towards a future where tourism is responsible, sustainable, and does not contribute to wildlife cruelty. Governments must also introduce breeding bans so to ensure the current generation of wild animals in captivity is the last to suffer this fate."

Tourism is one of the world's biggest drivers of wildlife exploitation, together we can build back a more responsible tourism industry.

- ENDS -

Key Facts:

The 2023 Holidays that Harm report found that:

·         Wild animals are still predominantly suffering in shockingly inadequate conditions across all venues visited during the investigation.

·         Elephant riding and bathing, close encounters, wildlife selfies, swimming with dolphins in artificial pools, and touching turtles in small pens are some of the cruellest wildlife attractions observed.

·         Elephants were seen chained without shade during the day at Mason Elephant Park and Tasta Zoo.

·         Global travel giants including GetYourGuide, Klook, Traveloka and continue to sell low-welfare wildlife entertainment attractions in Bali and Lombok for profit.

·         Expedia and TripAdvisor sell tickets to the accommodation of venues which feature cruel wildlife attractions, ultimately funding these venues.

·         There was no meaningful or significant improvement in the recorded and observed welfare conditions for wildlife in entertainment in Bali and Lombok in the five years since the last report.

·         While some small improvements were noted, none of these changes were significant enough to result in a venue being rated as even close to the ‘best possible’ welfare conditions for any of the focal species.

About us:

World Animal Protection is the global voice for animal welfare, with more than 70 years’ experience campaigning for a world where animals live free from cruelty and suffering. We have offices in 12 countries and work across 47 countries. We collaborate with local communities, the private sector, civil society and governments to change animals’ lives for the better.

Contact details:

·         To organise an interview or speak to a spokesperson, please contact Sandra Sopin at or on 0435 957 773.

·         Imagery and b-roll is available here.

·         The 2023 Holidays that Harm report can be found here, which includes methodology.

·         Eighty two percent of people interviewed in our 2022 global poll (over 23,000 people across 15 countries) believed that tour operators should not sell activities that cause suffering to wild animals[1]

[1] World Animal Protection (2022) Global online survey of 23,726 people across 15 countries (Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, the UK, Spain, South Africa, Kenya, China, India, Thailand, Canada, the USA, Australia, and Brazil). Survey commissioned to Savanta.


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