PREN’S CONTINUING DIALOGUE WITH TRIP ADVISOR
Excerpts from the latest correspondence between PREN and TripAdvisor reads as follows:
The undersigned members of PREN are of the view that TA should consider implementing a red-light or alert system of the facilities known to exploit elephants or not conforming to animal welfare standards, therefore disabling TA to “sell tickets for or generate booking revenue from” the facilities. This approach might incentivise such facilities to improve their criteria.
The consideration of the development of a methodology able to detect keywords in order to penalise tourist attractions with low or non-existent animal welfare standards will be a lifesaving tool for the Elephants.
The development of an overarching system that is able to detect keywords in order to penalise touristic attractions with low or non-existent animal welfare standards, could be an effective and impactful solution that is worthy of further consideration.
A NOTEWORTHY SCENARIO: THE BUDDHIST KANDE VIHARAYA TEMPLE, SRI LANKA
In 2001 the Thai government donated an Elephant called Muthu Raja to Sri Lanka. On the 2nd of July 2023, following complex but determined negotiations, the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Thailand Varawut Silpa-archa, repatriated the Elephant, after reports of abusive conditions in Sri Lanka.
The associated negotiations led to the Thai government rescinding and revoking its gift to Sri Lanka and removing the Elephant from a well-known Sri Lankan Buddhist temple in Kande Viharaya.
Concerns persist for the remaining single Elephant, a female known as Kumari, kept at the Kande Viharaya Temple. These concerns result from multiple reports and publicly available photographic evidence of Kumari being utilised in noisy religious and culturalparades, during hot weather, being chained with spiked shackles, standing for long periods of time often in her own urine and faeces, being utilised for rides and as selfie-props.
According to reports from eye-witnesses, local mahouts have used bullhooks in the Elephants’ eyes and on wounds to enhance dominance and control. Elephants at this Temple have been recorded as having purulent wounds, cracked and infected nails and visible scars and abscesses. There is seemingly an absence of proper veterinary care, therapy or pain relief.
Kande Viharaya Buddhist Temple is positively rated on TripAdvisor’s website and images showcase Kumari while kept chained on concrete, away from any other Elephant. She is utilised as a prop for visitors to take photographs or for Elephant rides.
There is overwhelming scientific evidence about Elephants’ intelligence, complex cognitive capabilities and sentience, social needs, display of empathy and concern for others, self-determination, self-recognition and self-awareness.
All Elephants require the opportunity to access expansive, diverse habitats in order to traverse long distances and exercise individual autonomy and socialization. Failure to meet these needs inevitably leads to health deterioration. The development of stereotypic behaviours generally reflects a welfare-compromised environment.
Stereotypic behaviour, the invariant restrictive and purposeless repetition of motor patterns, remains the most widely used welfare indicator for Elephants in poor welfare conditions, exposed to psychological stress that had direct physiological consequences on the body’s ability to function. This includes neural dysfunctions, brain damage and compromised survivorship.
PREN members acknowledge TA’s efforts to achieve best practices. The TA Animal Welfare Policy could make a greater difference to wild animals utilised in the tourism industry if the institutions where these guidelines are not respected are effectively penalised.
TA could further promote positive change for wild animals utilised in the tourism industry, by setting higher standards and by persuading countries with inadequate animal welfare policies to introduce regulations for the protection and compassionate treatment of those animals.
We would appreciate your considered response to this communication. We are available and welcome the opportunity you have offered, to engage further on this important subject matter.
Members of PREN could form a working group of experts in order to engage with TA specialists on a Zoom forum, as you kindly suggested.
The correspondence between PREN and TripAdvisor is supported by the members of PREN who signed the letter, a copy of which is hereby attached.
©PREN 2023. All Rights Reserved.