Learning is key to our mission at EF Education First, but even we occasionally find ourselves in need of new ways of thinking. Like many of you, we’ve always enjoyed incorporating animals into our travels—but unfortunately, tourists are often an unintentional cause of pain and suffering for them. Several years ago, we took the opportunity to educate ourselves about animal welfare best practices. As a result, our global organization is committed to creating a better world for the animals and communities we visit.
We are proud to collaborate with World Animal Protection on animal welfare policies and guidelines across EF’s programs worldwide. Our goal is to teach students and travelers to identify and avoid inhumane and irresponsible tourist attractions and offer educational activities that meet high standards of animal welfare.
Want to learn more? Here are five things to know about our commitment to animal welfare:
1. We collaborate with the best of the best in animal welfare.
“Our organizations are leaders in our respective industries – EF in educational travel and World Animal Protection in animal welfare. So, there’s tremendous power in putting our collective experience and expertise to work in finding new ways to create positive change for animals,” says Kerryann Driscoll, Vice President at EF Educational Tours.
2. We’re scaling up our animal-friendly commitments.
Since launching our collaboration in 2018, we have integrated new, animal-friendly activities into our travel opportunities while removing those that don’t have animals’ best interests at heart. We’re committed to continually improving our practices: we will remove aquariums across our global organization starting in 2021 and significantly limit the numbers of zoos we visit, working only with those that prioritize conservation and rehabilitation.
3. We cooperate for greater animal welfare impact.
To put this into practice, we have developed a wide network of experts, facilities and opportunities to teach students and travelers how to interact with and support animals in constructive ways. Examples of our local partners include:
- Responsible elephant sanctuaries in Thailand where students conduct service learning projects, assist in the preparation of the elephants’ food and vitamins and meet with “mahouts,” or elephant caretakers, to learn about their historic role in Thai culture
- Ecological restoration organizations in the Dominican Republic which teach travelers about reef restoration and mangrove reforestation and help preserve these crucial sanctuaries for endangered marine life
- Wildlife experts in Australia who study regional fauna and develop programs to conserve threatened ecosystems, recover native species, protect natural habitats and rescue and rehabilitate injured wildlife
- Nonprofit organizations in Costa Rica and Panama which provide environmental education to protect sea turtles and enlist travelers to help protect natural habitats and safeguard eggs
- Conservationists and wildlife experts in the Peruvian Amazon who educate travelers about their research, teach them about overfishing and other threats and invite them to help track endangered pink and gray river dolphins in the Amazon River.
“We hold our partners and suppliers to high standards, and every sanctuary, safari provider, or other animal-related partner has been thoroughly vetted by our team,” said Alex Luther, Director of Service Learning Programs for EF Educational Tours. “These organizations are experts in their respective fields, and they know exactly what these animals need.”
4. We deliver on expectations for animal-positive experiences.
While students and travelers may not initially be aware of the harmful conditions at some wildlife venues and attractions, such as those that allow petting, riding or feeding, they want to participate in animal-positive experiences once they learn more about the situation.
“Our customers are becoming more passionate about animal welfare and tourism, and we’re committed to making sure our travel opportunities have animals’ best interests at heart,” said Driscoll. “We’re holding our suppliers accountable and are only working with partners whose facilities and programs fully abide by our animal welfare policies, and we’re also working materials from World Animal Protection into our Tour Director training programs.”
5. We educate our staff about animal welfare.
EF staff receive regular training on the importance of animal welfare, common misconceptions, how to recognize violations, and small ways we can each make an impact. You, too, can take steps to educate yourself on animal-friendly tourism. Check out World Animal Protection’s guide on how to be an animal-friendly traveler or the elephant-friendly tourist guide.
Whether you’re hoping to snap wildlife photos from afar or have a hands-on learning experience, it’s our goal to help you see the world responsibly and constructively. By working with World Animal Protection, we hope to make tourism safer for the animals that call our destinations home.