TripAdvisor will no longer sell tickets to attractions with captive dolphins and whales
One of the world's most popular travel review sites, TripAdvisor, made a game-changing announcement this week: It will "no longer sell tickets to, or generate revenue from, any attraction that continues to contribute to the captivity of future generations of cetaceans."
The policy applies to both the company's namesake site and its subsidiary, Viator, and applies to attractions that breed, buy or capture whales, dolphins and porpoises. Among the most well-known? SeaWorld.
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The travel platform expects the policy to take full effect by the end of the year, and will remove attractions found in violation of the new rule in the coming months. It won't, however, apply to seaside sanctuaries that provide care to cetaceans that are already in captivity.
TripAdvisor representatives say the company consulted extensively with biologists, zoologists and conservationists to consider all scientific evidence and arguments from both sides of the issue. The platform says it's committed to improving the welfare of animals globally, particularly those in tourism.
"The extensive evidence presented to us by the experts was compelling," said Dermot Halpin, president of TripAdvisor experiences and rentals, in a statement. "Whales and dolphins do not thrive in limited captive environments, and we hope to see a future where they live as they should — free and in the wild. We believe the current generation of whales and dolphins in captivity should be the last, and we look forward to seeing this position adopted more widely throughout the travel industry."
Many experts welcomed the development as a step in the right direction. Nick Stewart, a global head of wildlife at the World Animal Protection nonprofit, added, "This sends a clear message to other travel companies that we must end this cruel industry once and for all."
TripAdvisor's policy extension also takes into account that, while it is possible to prevent future generations of cetaceans from a life of captivity, for those already in captivity, the situation is different. For most of the current population of cetaceans, release into the wild is not a realistic option. Therefore, the policy includes several stipulations aimed at protecting the needs, safety and health of cetaceans currently in captivity, too.
This announcement comes with a tide of other wildlife-friendly policies and programs sweeping the travel world. As travelers are becoming more conscientious about booking animal encounters, travel companies are taking note. On Thursday, for example, Airbnb revealed a program called "Airbnb Animal Experiences," through which travelers can arrange animal interactions with local hosts who care for their wellbeing. The experiences are all bound by World Animal Protection guidelines, so that people can responsibly learn more about and connect with their favorite animals.
And in August, New Zealand's Department of Conservation entirely banned swimming with wild dolphins in the Bay of Islands.