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Animal Protection Policy

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Protecting animals on our trips


Explore will never knowingly compromise the welfare of any animal for the purpose of our trips. We want to protect animals, keep them wild and contribute towards the best welfare standards in the industry. We have worked alongside Born Free, ANIMONDIAL and FOUR PAWS to create this policy. Below are three of the key changes we have committed to:
 
  1. We operate a no contact policy for all wild or stray animals; living in captivity or free roaming.
  2. We have introduced a traffic light system for all animal interactions. We have given interactions with all free-roaming animals the green light and assumed these to be ethical. We have a strict policy around any experience which may harm or threaten an animal; those are given the red light and never acceptable on our holidays. All those in between will be annually audited for quality assurance, either by ourselves for working animals or independently for all captive animals.
  3. We will work with any suppliers, alongside our partners, where the welfare of an animal is of concern to make improvements rather than moving immediately to another. Industry-wide change and greater understanding is crucial for long term sustainability.

We have summarised our policy below with four questions that we've asked ourselves, and four questions we ask our customers to think about on holiday with us, or download our full policy for more details.

We have asked ourselves the following four questions:

We want to provide authentic experiences for our customers and our preference will always be to see animals in their natural habitats; wildlife to be wild and nature to be natural. However some of our itineraries do include visits to sanctuaries or the use of working animals such as camels or donkeys. It is our responsibility to ensure we are happy with the welfare of the animals involved, and help protect their wellbeing. Each year our interactions with animals will be independently audited, ensuring our charity partners and consultants are happy with where we go, and what we do on our holidays.

We will never offer excursions which include animal performances (such as circuses, animal shows, marine entertainment parks, walking with animals, begging, cultural events which hurt animals).

Physically and mentally. The internationally recognised Five Domains model for animal welfare underpins decisions for the interactions with domesticated animals in our itineraries. This model includes thorough analysis of nutrition, environment, physical health and behaviour which together form the mental health of the animal. If any of our customers or staff are concerned about the protection or wellbeing of an animal in your itinerary it should be reported to your tour leader and you can always email sustainability@explore.co.uk.

If you are concerned about the welfare or protection of any animal unrelated to your holiday (such as a substandard zoo or marketplace you see in passing), then we have partnered with Born Free and they want you to “Raise the Red Flag”. They compile global data to conduct further investigation and create campaigns to help wild animals in need.

Explore has a no contact policy with wild animals and community animals (feral/stray domestic animals). No matter how well intentioned, contact with certain animals can have detrimental effects.

We will not feed, hold, eat, ride or hunt any wild animal in captivity or in the wild. We will follow strict guidelines around how close we should be with animals in the wild, how we should approach them and time spent with them. When we are close to animals we will be quiet, never litter, frighten or interfere with them.

Our no contact policy also includes community animals. Research tells us a common traveller activity is feeding strays but this can create aggressive behaviours or a lack of fear of humans which can be detrimental to the animal at a later time.

We do use domesticated animals on our trips such as camels, horses and donkeys and we have specific guidelines we follow because their protection and welfare is just as important as wild animals.

It would be easy to stop going somewhere or removing an interaction if there are concerns about an animal, however Explore believes that education and mutual understanding is critical if we are to move an entire industry towards significantly better standards. If we receive a complaint about an animal we will investigate immediately. We want to understand the issues and together, working with our suppliers, we will improve. If we do not see significant changes, or if it is evident changes cannot be made, we will stop that interaction immediately or change suppliers.


When interacting with animals on our trips, we want you to consider these four questions:

Travel experiences, for some, are synonymous with delicious food. Fresh fruit, homemade pizzas, hearty soups. We ask only that you consider which ingredients are on your plate, and how they got there.

Please do not eat bush meat, this perpetuates poaching even in arguably sustainable species such as springbok and kudu. Where logging and mining has opened up huge tracks of tracts of forest in Africa, commercial hunters can now penetrate deeper in to forests than ever before. Some animals endure immense cruelty to end up on a tourist’s plate, even some familiar friends such as cats and dogs. We have been working with FOUR PAWS who want to end the dog and cat meat trade where immunosuppressed animals stolen, endure cruel treatment and death in markets that are known to contribute to zoonotic disease spread (a disease that can pass from animals to humans e.g. Covid-19 or rabies).

We won’t visit a restaurant which sells engendered species, like shark fin soup, turtle soup or whale meat, and ask that you don’t either. If you’re offered a live insect to eat, politely decline.

We believe we should eat in local restaurants and eat the local food, with less food miles and fresher ingredients it makes for a much more heartening experience. If you are a vegan or vegetarian there are smartphone apps such as HappyCow or Vegman which may help with restaurant recommendations in various locations, and learning the word for vegan/vegetarian in the local language might be helpful.

Explore operates a no contact policy for all wildlife, both in captivity and living free. This extends to community animals; stray and feral domesticated species.

You wouldn’t walk with a lion in the wild or take a selfie with a tiger, so don’t do it on holiday. If you wouldn’t jump on an elephants back normally, don’t do it on holiday.

Touching, feeding, riding, holding or simply having a photo with wild animals could cause harm to them, manipulate their behaviours or change their environment. None of these are experiences are authentic. For your safety this also includes stray or feral animals.

Explore will not visit anywhere with animal performances such as circuses or zoos. These animals are kept in inappropriate conditions and the show a likely outcome from dubious training methods. We also avoid marine parks or aquariums, especially those that keep large marine mammals.

There are always ethical options available; bird watching, whale watching or safaris, where the animals are free to move as they please and you can watch them in their natural habitat.

If you’re ever unsure, it’s always best to say no.

There are some beautiful markets around the world selling flowers, spices, fruit and vegetables. Of course there are also meat and fish markets. We know these markets often mix and they can be genuine local experiences so we want to take you there. But we will not visit specific wildlife markets which sell live animals for meat or pets. We avoid these for their frequent inhumane treatment of animals, likely bushmeat offerings and possible zoonotic disease transmission.

Local markets often sell interesting traditional arts and crafts and purchasing these supports the local business, communities and traditions. We ask you to avoid purchasing souvenirs made from animal parts. This can include ivory, coral, shells, horns, shark fins, exotic leathers, fur, food items and traditional medicines. The wild animals used to produce these products often suffer significantly, and suffering is likely to occur regardless of if the animal has been bred in captivity or wild, or if the process is legal or illegal. Bear in mind import and export restrictions in your visiting country too, you don’t want to end a wonderful holiday with a hefty fine.

Read the full policy

Want to read more about our Animal Protection Policy? Download the full policy for the detail. 
Download the full policy

More about wildlife on our trips

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