Many tourists have been horrendously misled when visiting a so called “sanctuary” in Africa. The South African Tourism Services Association (SATSA) has published a useful guide to help you make informed decisions.
The following activities are categorized as “unacceptable”:
- if you can touch or play with the infants (eg lion or cheetah cub petting);
- if you are allowed to touch any predators or cetaceans;
- if the facility has performing animals or you can ride the animals (such as elephants);
- if the facility breeds lions or tigers.
You need to consider whether or not the facility is a true sanctuary/rehabilitation facility:
- There is no breeding of animals;
- They do not trade in animals;
- No animals are performing for entertainment;
- There are no tactile interactions and no walking with the animals;
- The animals are in captivity because they were sick, injured, orphaned, rescued, donated and/or abandoned;
- The animals will have a home for life or will be relocated back into the wild as part of a recognised conservation initiative;
- And the facility is compliant with all relevant legislation and is transparent in its operations and marketing collateral
If the facility you are looking at visiting fulfils ALL of the above criteria you can support it or visit with a clear conscience. If not, you need to dig deeper into the practices of the facility.
See here for the full SATSA report, it is an interesting read.