Ethical Animal Experiences In Asia | CoolJapan

Wildlife encounters have grown in popularity in the past couple of years, especially with the rise of social-media-prodded travels. But while the prospect of interacting with other species seems entertaining and educational, the harsh reality of such experiences has been brought to light recently by a more mindful travelling community.

Attractions like elderly elephants being forced to carry around tourists in the midst of a heatwave or bears being forced to perform tricks like clowns during caged shows have finally caught the attention of many, causing an uproar calling out abusive animal tourism. Thankfully, there are many facilities that conduct ethical animal experiences in Asia that are both edutaining and mindful. Keep on scrolling to find out more about them. 

Interact with sacred deers at Nara Park, Japan

Ethical Animal Experiences In Asia - Feeding deers at Nara Park

As soon as you land on Nara's main stations, merch after merch featuring deers will meet your eyes. This is because the brethren of Bambi co-own this Japanese city — we're not kidding! Considered sacred due to being a messenger of the gods in the Shinto religion, deers are free to roam the streets and forests as they please, mingling with locals and tourists alike. And while most can be found in the famed Nara Park surrounding Todaiji Temple, they can also be spotted at random nooks and crannies all over town. 

Vendors of deer biscuits also roam the area, giving people the chance to feed and take selfies with these woodland creatures to their delight. And due to years of interacting with many feeders, they've even learned to bow, earning the utmost care and respect of those who visit them. Nara City also has policies and programs surrounding the welfare of their famous wildlife residents. 

Learn about orangutans at Semmengoh Wildlife Centre, Malaysia

Established in 1975 to help rehabilitate wild animals, especially those orphaned or confiscated due to illegal smuggling, Semmengoh Wildlife Centre or SWC now solely caters to orangutan care. Responsible for training the orangutans to be able to fend on their own in the wild once freed, they also ensure that they are within the Totally Protected Areas (TPA) post-program. Reserve alums are also free to come and go as they please for feeding and are still monitored by the facility even after the rehabilitation to ensure their safety and health. 

Now, where do you come in? SWC has a feeding attraction where guests can come in to witness the red apes being fed. But the facility does have a disclaimer that in respect for the apes, sightings are on a case-to-case basis. In such moments where the 'tans decide to opt-out of their feeding time, guests are still welcome to learn more about the program and maybe even 'adopt' an orangutan where they will get an adoption certificate, plus, monthly updates on the orangutan they chose to sponsor. Awesome, right? 

Watching dolphins in the Maldives

Dolphin shows are one of the most controversial animal tourism activities that people can't seem to agree on. For one, being trained for shows seem like fun and healthy for these adorable water creatures. But on the flip side, people are still worried about what happens behind-the-scenes to ensure dolphins perform as required. So here's an alternative if you can't decide: watch them frolic in their natural habitat. 

Away from pools and trainers who talk funny for our entertainment, most of the resorts in Maldives offer boat cruises where you can get the chance to spot dolphins in action. With no food baiting or prompt for tricks, dolphins are naturally ecstatic creatures who twirl and leap as they please in pure majesty. Not only does it deliver a sense of freedom to those who experience it, but it's also worth agreeing that there's really a difference when watching these creatures splashing in spontaneity. 

Make friends with elephants in Green Hill Valley Centre, Myanmar

Ethical Animal Experiences In Asia - Elephant experience in Myanmar

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Did you know that because they are highly empathic and intelligent, elephants are prone to severe depression? Realising this makes hard labour due to cruel animal tourism more unbearable to think about. This is why the Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp in Myanmar is 10 times better to experience that simply booking an elephant riding tour elsewhere.

Founded in 2011, the facility is built to care for elephants of old age and with health issues. The 'camp' is very adamant on saying that their place is not meant to parade or circus around these animals but rather to educate guests on wildlife care. One of the highlights of this place is having guests interact with the elephants by feeding them and giving them a nice bath. Think of it as a retirement home for elephants, if you will. Bear in mind that elephants have strong memories and will surely remember your good deeds as much as you'll reminisce this wondrous experience. 

Unleash your inner Khaleesi at the Komodo National Park, Indonesia

Okay, so we're not really talking about actual dragons here. But komodo dragons come at a close second to the fictional beings, having the reputation of being fearsome and ancient-looking. However, these reptiles still require as much attention and care as any other fluffy-looking wildlife animal. Because of their exotic nature, they have been a subject to years of illegal trade and poaching in many countries and the Komodo National Park aimed to change the narrative and conserve them, along with expanding the facility's biodiversity.  Now, it is said to be the only place in the world where you can see these large reptiles. 

Guests are invited to watch the intriguing creature in its natural habitat while maintaining a safe distance. The facility has also been named as a Unesco World Heritage Centre for its vast contributions in conserving wildlife, both terrestrial and marine, since its establishment in 1980.