Lions roar free at Gir

A recent legal directive by a court in Gir Somnath district of Gujarat, banning the practice of baiting lions for tourism is hailed by corporates, inculcating responsible and sustainable wildlife tourism in practice at Gir National Park.


In recognition of a major development to advance the cause of responsible wildlife tourism in India, international animal welfare organisation, World Animal Protection lauds and appreciates the recent legal directive of a court on the unethical and immoral practice of baiting lions for tourism in Gir National Park in Gujarat, as reported in the press:


In the wake of this landmark legal directive that regulates the nature of wildlife tourism, two travel and tour operator companies, 1000 Islands Hotels and Resort and Wolf and Company, have undertaken to endorse the wildlife-friendly pledge of World Animal Protection, that encourages travel operators to refrain from promoting the unethical exploitation of animals, including elephant rides and selfies with wild animals in tiger breeding establishments and other captive facilities.


Image credit : World Animal Protection


Endorsing the practice of ethical wildlife tourism whilst signing the World Animal Protection wildlife-friendly pledge, Mr Maulik Bhagat, managing director of 1000 Island Hotels and Resort, says, “We, at Woods at Sasan, take pride in being the first in India to successfully incorporate ‘Biophilia’ in its foundation. Biophilia is reflective of a way of life that is immersive in nature and aims to marry the world inside with the essence of nature, outside, keeping environmental inclusivity in check. This vision encourages us to keep our wildlife protected, allowing them to thrive in their natural homes. Having said that, with the growing urbanisation, we recognize that wildlife in entertainment represents a serious threat to conservation and animal welfare, consequently affecting the health of our planet. While many travellers may express their desire to visit places that directly or indirectly abuse wildlife, we are committed in our mission to protect the natural flora and fauna, and not guide tourists to entities that engage in entertainment at the cost of animal welfare. We pledge to practice zero tolerance towards animal abuse like elephant rides, selfies with tigers or unethical practices like, ‘baiting lions’ for frivolous sport in the Gir National Park in Gujarat. (as also reflected in the national press recently). I, Maulik Bhagat and my whole team, proudly embrace the wildlife-friendly pledge of World Animal Protection and stand by the message – that ‘Wildlife belongs in the Wild’.”


Highlighting the importance of ethics in wildlife tourism that involves exploitation of wild animals in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, noted naturalist and proprietor of Wolf and Company, Mr Sunny Shah, mentions, “The coronavirus pandemic has taught us that mankind cannot continue to abuse wild animals so we want to emphasise the message of ‘build back better’ in the aftermath of the pandemic to set a good example for all travel and tourist companies involved in wildlife tourism. We are categorically against baiting lions for tourist entertainment in Gir National Park in Gujarat that has made headline news in the national press recently. We endorse the principles of World Animal Protection to stop the abuse of all wild animals in entertainment and promote the idea that animal welfare and conservation-friendly tourism is the way forward for a humane model of sustainable tourism in the wake of the pandemic that was believed to have been caused by humans coming into proximity of wild animals in abusive situations. We are also encouraging our clients not to undertake onward journeys to places that offer elephant rides and other forms of exploitation of wild animals in captivity.”


Welcoming the legal directive on the baiting of lions in Gir and the accompanying wildlife-friendly pledges of the tour companies, Mr Gajender K Sharma, Country Director of World Animal Protection in India, emphasizes, “As an organization we are totally committed to ethically sound tourism practices involving wildlife in both the wild and in captivity. We wholeheartedly welcome the directive of the court in punishing the offenders involved in baiting lions for tourism and strongly emphasise the principle of ‘build back better,’ to promote a more humane, responsible and animal-friendly tourism model on behalf of travel and tour operators in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic. We are pleased to include 1000 Island Hotels and Resort and Wolf and Company in our fold to prevent the promotion of elephant rides, selfies with captive tigers and other abusive wildlife practices in the tourism industry. We hope that the example set by the court as well as these two responsible corporates will pave the way for more companies to endorse ethically sound wildlife-friendly practices.”


Lioness in Gir (Image credit : Sunny Shah)


Across the world, there is increasing concern about the exploitation of wild animals in tourism and how the travel and tourism industry ought to deal with this phenomenon. World Animal Protection has been at the forefront of raising awareness on the exploitation of wildlife in captivity by persistently highlighting the threats to conservation and animal welfare, caused by such activities. The investigative report, ‘Checking out of cruelty’, which used the research conducted by the University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), is reportedly the first-ever piece of global research into the scale of animal cruelty in wildlife tourism. The research found that three out of four wildlife tourist attractions involve some form of animal abuse or conservation concerns, and up to 550,000 wild animals are suffering in these venues.


Image credit : World Animal Protection


World Animal Protection believes travel companies have an amazing and unprecedented opportunity to rebuild the tourism industry to be more resilient and responsible in the aftermath of coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 has challenged us to create change in our conventional perceptions on our relationship with nature and animals. The pandemic has shone a harsh spotlight on how people treat wild animals, both in the wild and in captivity. The catastrophic impact of wildlife exploitation over the years has impacted our health, economies and the travel industry, in addition to causing the suffering of millions of animals worldwide. There can be no going back to what once was, in short, business as usual means trouble.

60% of emerging infectious diseases are stated to be zoonotic (originating from animals), with over 70% of these thought to be originating from wild animals. The demand for and exploitation of wild animals exposes us to diseases like COVID-19 and subsequently putting us all at risk.

As a member of the travel industry, responsible firms can help prevent another pandemic, secure their own livelihoods and help keep wild animals in the wild by becoming a wildlife-friendly travel company. This involves phasing out wildlife entertainment like elephant rides, selfies with captive tigers and dolphin shows from their supply chain and offering responsible tourist experiences instead.


We live in the hope that the exemplary commitment for wildlife-friendly tourism shown by 1000 Islands Hotels and Resort and Wolf And Company will be emulated by other companies and thus help in phasing out the cruel spectacle of wildlife entertainment in captivity everywhere.



About the Author /

Shubhobroto Ghosh is an ex journalist whose works have been published in a number of publications in India and abroad. He is a contributor to the biography of Indira Gandhi by Jairam Ramesh and is the author of the book, ‘Dreaming In Channel Islands’ based on his surveys of zoos in North East India and England. He currently works as Wildlife Projects Manager at World Animal Protection in New Delhi.

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