September 27, 2018

12:43 pm

Take Nothing But Pictures

“Take nothing but pictures.

Leave nothing but footprints.

Kill nothing but time.

Respect the environment.”

The origin of the above quote is disputed, but no sentiments seem more appropriate for #WorldTourismDay.

Photo by Travel Industry Institute

World Tourism Day was launched in 1980 by the UN’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), to be celebrated every September 27th. Wait — the UN has a *World Tourism Organization*?

Yes, the UNWTO is the UN agency that looks after the “promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism. As the leading international organization in the field of tourism, UNWTO promotes tourism as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability.”

#WorldTourismDay offers an important reminder how we all can travel responsibly.

One stellar recent example is the “Palau Pledge,” the winning campaign of the first-ever Cannes Lions SDG Award.

The Pledge is required of all visitors to the Pacific Island nation, stamped into each visitors passports. “Palau is the first nation on earth to change its immigration laws for the cause of environmental protection. Upon entry, visitors need to sign a passport pledge to act in an ecologically responsible way on the island, for the sake of Palau’s children and future generations of Palauans.”

When it comes to elephants, there are a number of important principles to which concerned and eco-conscious travelers would want to adhere.

In a post about a new documentary that exposes cruelty in the elephant-tourism industry, the Lady Freethinker advises: “Please remember to be a responsible traveler; it is always best to view animals in the wild or volunteer at a real sanctuary. Keep in mind that there are many fake sanctuaries, rescues, and orphanages popping up throughout Asia. If you ever see an animal chained up, that is a huge red flag that there is abuse and cruelty going on. Remember that a true sanctuary would never keep any animals in chains. And please, wherever you go and whatever you do, please do not ride elephants anywhere in the world. Ever.”

“Please remember to be a responsible traveler; it is always best to view animals in the wild or volunteer at a real sanctuary. Keep in mind that there are many fake sanctuaries, rescues, and orphanages popping up throughout Asia. If you ever see an animal chained up, that is a huge red flag that there is abuse and cruelty going on. Remember that a true sanctuary would never keep any animals in chains. And please, wherever you go and whatever you do, please do not ride elephants anywhere in the world. Ever.”

Daniel Turner, spokesperson for the Born Free Foundation, told the online magazine Responsible Travel, that, “Elephants, whether captive-born or wild-caught, are wild animals and therefore, highly unpredictable. Together with their size, intelligence and ability to cause people severe harm, they are not suitable animals to ride or have direct interaction with. Elephants used for elephant back safaris are often overworked, chained when not in use and subject to strict training and management conditions which can lead to physical and mental suffering, injuries and even early mortality. Whilst the use of a padded saddle, no chaining and significant rest periods are recommended in the management of elephants that are used for riding purposes, as opposed to the metal or wood seating that can cause wounds and back problems, the Born Free Foundation would urge suppliers to phase-out elephant riding, seeking alternative, more responsible activities that respect the welfare of animals.”

In addition to what you do when you travel, where you go is critical, as well. A National Geographic piece emphasizes the importance of patronizing destinations, parks and lodges that are responsible and purpose-driven.

“This project means so much to us as a community,” says Robert Lemaiyan, a Samburu warrior who manages the Sarara Treehouses facility in Kenya. “Not only is it giving us jobs on our own land, it is protecting this area for generations to come. We are so proud.”

It should be noted that the Moving Giants project itself embraces such principles, as 20% of all tourism proceeds earned by Zinave National Park — the recipient of the elephants in this effort — will be given to the communities adjacent to Zinave. Thus the local population will be incentivized to support both the park and its wildlife, and create a positive environmental circle. This would also help promote tourism in Mozambique, a country still trying to recover economically — as well as emotionally — from a devastating civil war (1977-1992).