AZA, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and its members have been working with online travel company Expedia Group on updates to its animal welfare policy in recent years.
In spite of the fact that AZA has provided the group with information on science-backed precautions taken for interactions and demonstrations for dolphins and whales, Expedia has announced that it will cease to sell tickets to venues where dolphins and whales do anything other than swim.
Connecting guests with the animal world
In response to this, AZA issued the following statement:
“We are accredited zoological and aquarium facilities that adhere to the highest standards in our profession. We provide safe, healthy, and inspiring opportunities for hundreds of millions of guests to meet and interact with animals every year.
“Our visitation continues to grow, a reflection of the fascination people have for animals, and their desire for a connection with the natural world. We introduce our guests to animals in dignified ways, inspiring wonder and awe, while teaching respect and empathy for the animals involved.
“While Expedia plays a small and declining part in our reservation and ticketing operations, we have worked with them as partners to provide consumers information to make knowledgeable and comparative choices as they search for ways to responsibly engage in animal experiences. Increasingly disconnected from nature, people are searching for opportunities for animal engagement and experiences, and we should help them make responsible, ethical choices.
“By selectively eliminating interactions with some live animals, Expedia has apparently decided to abandon this partnership and the goal of informing consumer choice. Instead, they have decided to impose their opinion and their choice on consumers. They misguidedly seem to believe their action will stop people from visiting animal attractions. All the evidence says otherwise.”
“Expedia’s decision won’t stop animal lovers from purchasing experiences involving animal interactions. It will just give consumers less information on which to make responsible choices.
“To be clear, Expedia and its family of websites is making choices for their customers by removing interactions with some live animals that are proven safe, sustainable, and beneficial for the guests and the animals. And ironically, while Expedia is blocking opportunities for people to engage with live animals at accredited and responsible facilities, the company continues to promote and sell opportunities for commercial hunting and fishing excursions that result in the death of wild animals.
“Our community of organizations has a long and established record of advancing the science of animal care, educating guests about animals and nature, conserving species and habitats, and helping thousands of animals in need through rescue, rehabilitation, and return to the wild.
“Our businesses are growing because we always put the best interests of animals first, and we provide something that people value and need — connection to nature through the responsible keeping and presentation of animals. We trust the ability of people to make good choices when they have good information, and we will continue working to make that information available.
“By providing ethical opportunities for guest engagement with animals, we will continue to grow a conservation-minded citizenry, and recruit people as partners in saving animals from extinction.”
Earlier this month, AZA announced the recipients of its latest Conservation Grants Fund (CGF) grants, supported by the Disney Conservation Fund. The 13 AZA member-led projects will benefit from a share of almost $290,000.