Elephant Camp Animal Welfare and Sustainability Standards Information Meeting for Outbound Tour Operators Friday March 8th, 12.30 - 14.00 hours, ITB Berlin (fairground)
Background The welfare of elephants in tourism is a highly debated issue within the public domain at large and within the travel sector in particular. This has led to confusion among tourists as well as elephant camp venues themselves. All stakeholders, however, are committed towards an ethical choice. Tour operators wish to support their clients with motivated decisions, and are confronted with many questions from their clients. Is elephant-riding bad for elephants? If yes, what are good alternatives? Is human-elephant interaction bad for elephant welfare? Can elephants be trained in a positive and humane way? Are elephants in tourism coming from the wild? Can elephants be reintroduced into the wild? Why is a hook used and should it be banned? Is free-roaming a solution? Which camps can I visit?
Answers to the above questions should be based on scientific criteria and indicators for elephant welfare. Much knowledge and experience is available among different elephant disciplines, including veterinarians, learning science experts, elephant psychologists and behaviorists, and conservation experts. Until recently, however, a practically applicable and widely supported set of standards for guiding, supporting and evaluating elephant camp venues integrating the knowledge from different disciplines was not existing. An independent scientifically-based criteria and assessment system is critical to provide consumers with an ethical choice and to promote animal welfare, conservation and the social-economic welfare of local communities.
To do so, leading Asian inbound tour operators with the support of the Pacific Asian Travel Association (PATA) and Travelife for Tour operators have launched in 2016 an initiative to establish a scientifically-based standard and assessment system for Asian Elephants in tourism. Work conducted by ABTA (Animal Welfare Guidelines), the Asian Captive Elephant Working Group, The Chiang Mai University Center of Excellence in Elephant Research, Human Elephant Learning Projects (H-ELP) and many individual Elephant experts has been integrated and piloted in the practice of daily elephant management. This has resulted in comprehensive sets of practically applicable minimum standards and best practice standards for elephant welfare. These have been complemented by overall sustainability criteria related to environmental management, local communities, staff (mahout) treatment and visitor interpretation.
With the support of Asian tour operators presently more than 30 pre-selected elephant facilities in 5 Asian countries are under assessment and are guided and supported towards improvement of their conditions.
During the meeting you will be updated on the background of the initiative, the process so far and how you can use the (future) results to support your clients in making ethical decisions.
Tentative agenda Randy Durband, CEO of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council
The relevance of independent standards and assessment systems to promote animal welfare and sustainability in elephant-related tourism. Daniela Wagner, Regional Director EMEA, PATA
Elephants and tourism: the Asian perspective Naut Kusters, General Manager of Travelife for Tour operators
The background and objectives of the elephant welfare standards and assessment initiative, and the status of the elephant camp assessments. Nicolas Dubrocard, Auditing Diagnostic Services
The elephant camp animal welfare standards, main principlesand conclusions based on the expert consultation process, and the assessment and auditing process. Andreas Hofmann, GIZ Laos EU Switch Asia Luang Prabang Handle with Care Project
Working with the Elephant Camp Sector in Laos, e.g. Elephant Friendly Training for Mahouts, Awareness Raising and Business Sector Organization. Aline van der Meulen, Sustainable tourism expert Launch of the Human Elephant Learning Project elephant-friendly training video.