Photo by Koroleva Yana/Shutterstock
The decision affects major attractions like SeaWorld.
The travel site will immediately begin work to remove products that aren’t in line with its new rules.
TripAdvisor just made a major change to its policy on marine mammals: On October 2, the Massachusetts-based online travel company announced that along with its subsidiary, Viator, it would no longer sell tickets to or generate revenue from attractions that breed or buy captive whales and dolphins.
The new policy will be in full effect by the end of 2019, and over the course of the next few months the company will work to remove any products “currently on sale and found to breach the new rules.” (Attractions will still appear on the site, however, where users are able to share reviews and photos.) The decision comes as a result of conversations with marine biologists, zoologists, and conservationists and from weighing scientific evidence, said the company.
There are some exceptions to the rule: seaside “sanctuaries” that have animals already in captivity, and commercial and not-for-profit facilities that are working to develop seaside sanctuaries and have officially and publicly committed to rehousing their dolphins and whales in an “expedient” manner. Also exempt? Facilities that have agreed to stop and prevent the breeding of cetaceans (whales, dolphins, or porpoises) in their care and stop the import of wild and captive cetaceans for public display.
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TripAdvisor has firm guidelines about what constitutes a seaside sanctuary: It’s defined as a “natural body of coastal water, such as a bay or a cove, that houses cetaceans in as close to a natural environment as possible while providing protection and oversight from qualified husbandry and veterinary staff.” Seaside sanctuaries, stipulates the company, “must adhere to a strict no-breeding policy, must not train their animals to perform in any shows or performances for public display, and must prohibit all forms of physical interaction between guests and the animals, including any in-water guest experiences.”
As a result of this policy change, major attractions like SeaWorld and Spain’s Loro Parque, one of Europe’s most popular zoos, will be affected, the Guardian reports. (The National Aquarium of Baltimore, conversely, won’t be removed because it is currently creating a sanctuary for its dolphins.)
This isn’t the first time TripAdvisor has revised its policies to be more animal friendly: In 2016, it banned tickets to experiences where travelers came in contact with captive wild animals (such as riding elephants and petting tigers) and in 2018, it banned “demeaning” animal shows and performances from its sales.
In large part, TripAdvisor's decision reflects the changing times. As AFAR reported in August, a survey found that more than 80 percent of global travelers would prefer to see animals in their natural environment. In 2017, Expedia stopped selling tours and attractions that featured wildlife interactions, and even countries are getting involved: In June 2019, Canada passed legislation that bans keeping marine mammals, including dolphins, whales, and porpoises, in captivity for the purpose of entertainment; in October 2018, the Greek government prohibited anyone over 220 pounds from riding the donkeys in Santorini.
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