Suffering Unseen: The Dark Truth Behind Wildlife Tourism – National Geographic, June 2019, Natasha Daly
“I’ve come back to check on a baby. Just after dusk I’m in a car lumbering down a muddy road in the rain, past rows of shackled elephants, their trunks swaying. I was here five hours before, when the sun was high and hot and tourists were on elephants’ backs.
Walking now, I can barely see the path in the glow of my phone’s flashlight. When the wooden fence post of the stall stops me short, I point my light down and follow a current of rainwater across the concrete floor until it washes up against three large, gray feet.”
Through the WI Lens
This investigative feature lifts the lid in sometimes horrifying detail on the wild animals who are tamed and brutally trained to become objects for human interaction, under the label of ‘wildlife encounters’ or simply to adorn a thousand Instagram accounts. In a world where the ultimate selfie involves lying down with a tiger, or posing on the beach with a baby elephant, it seems that few of the participants consider what was done to the animal to make it so benign and to tease out its performance. The harsh reality, uncovered by National Geographic’s team, is that animals – elephants, tigers, bears, sloths, anteaters and many more – are too often trained through pain and fear to appear as loveable props in human lives. As consumers increasingly seek out ‘experiences’ in preference to traditional holidays, it’s vital that any hospitality operator think very carefully before offering any experience involving wild animals, and find out exactly what has taken place in the background. Far better to focus on eco-tourism that makes a genuine contribution to wildlife while keeping the animals at a distance in their own environment – and to educate participants about the true cost of these grotesque opportunities to boost the customer’s self-esteem and selfie appeal.
The take out? There’s clearly an opportunity for services for the dying that treat the subject holistically, rather than as a medical process. But a more candid conversation, one that allows people to confront their fears and express their wishes, is an aspect of this movement that has far-reaching implications for all those involved in healthcare and wellbeing.
“On such fragile foundations are built the first steps towards a more ethical kind of business, and who knows what virtuous circles might result?”
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“Looking at the bigger picture, putting the measures in this order represents a lost opportunity that the pandemic could have offered for a cultural pivot pivot towards getting people more focused on their health, a powerful statement of intent.”
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“All roads lead to a wellbeing anchor, whether that be economic/financial, physical, mental or emotional: all contribute to a progressive and inclusive cosmopolitan world. The answer should not be a choice of one or the other but of a joined up and compassionate solution for society, business and individuals.”
“The paradox is that we continue to do this in spite of recognising that striving to become ever-more productive is an intrinsically unhealthy behaviour, leading to stress and too often, a sense of failure.”
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The take-out from this? Wellbeing cannot exist at a more elevated level without our basic needs being met.