Wildlife Conservation

Wildlife conservation in Asia

Wildlife conservation aims to ensure those species of animal most endangered or at threat are secured and able to recover in the wild. Conservation and regulation are essential for the preservation of certain animal species. Unfortunately, not all animal attractions and wildlife excursions operate legally or in accordance with local and national legal requirements. We will only work with those suppliers, animal attractions or wildlife-related excursions that hold a valid license to operate.

Animal attractions and wildlife excursions must comply with CITES requirements. CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

CITES works by subjecting international trade in specimens of selected species to certain controls. All eleven destinations that Destination Asia operates within are member parties. There are three levels of protection afforded to endangered animals depending on the circumstance of the species, although the following always applies:

We will always advise travelers to never purchase ivory or products made from animal bone, hide or hair. You do not know their origin and its purchase simply fuels the illegal trade in wildlife and encourages poachers to continue to hunt these animals.

Click here to open the Destination Asia Wildlife Viewing and Animal Welfare guide.


Elephants in Asia

The relationship of elephants in Asia and tourism can be divided into two clear categories. The first is viewing wild elephants in their natural habitat (National Parks or remote rural regions), while the second is viewing and/or interacting with captive elephants in zoos, sanctuaries, elephant camps, festivals and elephant shows. At Destination Asia we promote viewing wild elephants following clear guidelines so as not to disrupt their natural environment, and we are working with Travelife to define a widely accepted set of criteria and evaluation system for Elephant camps in Asia. Read more about elephants in Asia in the Destination Asia Wildlife Viewing and Animal Welfare guide.

In recent years, many countries have banned or reduced logging, a practice that has historically involved great numbers of elephants. This led to a number of these working animals and their mahouts leaving the countryside to find alternative employment in the region’s growing tourism industry. The stark reality for many mahouts is that if they can’t generate money from their elephant, then they can’t survive.

Therefore certain areas in Southeast Asia rely heavily on elephant tourism for their livelihoods. Rather than instantly stopping all elephant riding and elephant related experiences which would be detrimental to these communities, we believe in addressing the issue in a practical manner that benefits all stakeholders.

In a reputable camp, interaction with elephants should support their conservation and protection. An elephant camp should never be created for the sole purpose of tourism, but always as a rescue center or conservation camp, providing a safe haven for formerly tortured elephants or calves whose mother has been killed or taken away.

Responsible elephant tourism is rarely ideal. The ideal is that Asian elephants return to and live in the wild. The reality however, is that this would possibly result in species extinction across many parts of developing Asia. We hope there will be a point in time when captive elephants can be returned to the wild and live free from fear of harmby humans. Our backingof responsible elephant tourism is therefore a practical compromise solution, and one which we hope to be able to lift in the future when it becomes safe for elephants to return to their natural environments.

A healthy elephant will eat for up to 16 hours a day and has a constant need for water (up to 200 liters per day). Therefore supporting a rider for long hours will prevent them from feeding themselves properly. Please make clients aware of the following points when considering elephant riding in Asia.

At Destination Asia we believe that elephants are much better off in the wild and that viewing them in their natural habitat is also more rewarding for travelers. However, through education and working closely with conservation groups, we have learned that visiting a certified elephant camp and riding an elephant under the correct conditions can be done without causing harm.


The Elephant camp welfare and sustainability standard and assessment initiative

In early 2017, Destination Asia became a member of the Elephant Camp Welfare and Sustainability Standard and Assessment Initiative. The elephant camp welfare and sustainability standard is an initiative of the PATA tour operator sustainability working group and Travelife for Tour operators (legally represented by ECEAT). The aim of the working group is, among others, to develop, review and share common standards and tools in order to jointly evaluate suppliers.

The Elephant camp standard and assessment was born as an answer to the growing concern of our clients and to address the critical issue of animal welfare. At the time no widely accepted set of criteria or evaluation system was present for Elephant camps in Asia. Some tour operators were evaluating their camps based on self-developed checklists, leading to inefficient use of resources as each operator was evaluating the same camp - and under differing criteria. Destination Asia, along with other DMCs in Asia and Travelife, has a set of standardized criteria and has successfully audited 30 of the most-visited elephant camps in Southeast Asia. Destination Asia has evaluation reports on all the elephant camps they currently work with.


Click here to read our Sustainability Policy.