There are many reasons why people feel the desire to throw on their backpacks, to travel to faraway destinations and those reasons tend to come with a hierarchy of preference – even if the person is not aware of it.
One of the strongest travel attractions for me has always been the possibility of seeing exotic animals. I was obsessed with drawing them as a child and knew all sorts of weird facts like most kids do, but something really sad happened along the way – and it happens to most of us:
I lost my true compassion for animals.
Most of us love animals as little nippers and we hate to see them suffer, but before we know it – society gets to us and the rule book of loving and protecting all beings swiftly changes to a comfortable numbness in our newly enforced brainwashed hypocrisy.
Love the dog and cat, but kill the pig. Be nice to horses (unless they bring you money, or shiny, shallow objects) eat the cow and chicken and ask no more questions.
And what follows is the fetishisation of exotic animals.
Try telling most people about the horrors of factory farming and they don’t want to hear it, as it’ll put them off their dinner. But as soon as news comes in of a majestic, foreign animal being harmed – even the most pacifist of people will quite literally scream for a violent justice against the human abuser.
This was more than evident in the recent Cecil the lion case.
But our relationship with exotic animals when we travel becomes even more complex and is laced with an unspoken moral schizophrenia – as we are so hellbent in snapping a pic of us with a magnificent, foreign creature that we lose all rational about the welfare, or basic dignity of the animal.
Although our intentions are good – we support horrific animal exploitation overseas, and not only do we not think about it – but we promote it on our social media and perpetuate the myth that what we are doing is love, when it is in fact the complete antithesis.
For those who think that I’m pointing fingers and being holier-than-thou here – it’s not the case, because I myself have been guilty of some of the worst animal abuse tourism since leaving home four years ago. I only woke up from the sleeplessness a little over a year ago and I’m simply trying to educate others to learn from my rookie mistakes.
I’ll write about that more in further detail some other day, but for now let’s start with this rule for positive change – swap your zoos (animal prisons) for a sanctuary, or a rescue centre and make sure you do your homework before you visit an animal attraction. Or you may be left with the sour taste of regret, like myself.
Costa Rica – I Can Take It Or Leave It
I admittedly didn’t have too much love for Costa Rica. The Tourism Board does a mighty fine job of convincing the world that it’s the poster child of environmentally friendliness and second to only heaven itself. For me the famous song; “Do you know the way to San Jose,” should have had a follow up called; “Yes, petal – now do you know the bloody way out of this dump?”
Even more absurdly, Mrs Warwick claims in that devilishly-catchy classic that; “you can really breathe in San José, they’ve got a lot of space,” when it really couldn’t be any further away from the truth!
I will never believe a word that women says ever again.
Puerto Viejo Sloth And Jaguar Rescue Centre
Costa Rica was full of contrived tourism, overpriced in all areas and lacking in any kind of edgy or unique personality, but fighting for the ‘every cloud…’ theory to remain victorious – I took a minibus (thanks to these guys) to the east coast, to check out the beaches and visit the celebrated sloth and jaguar centre.
I stayed in a lovely bamboo lodge called ‘Coco Loco,’ which was only a 20 minute wander from the rescue centre. (Although one night when drunk, I went to pet the hotel’s “dog,” which turned out to be a massive ant-eater who chased me back into my room, screaming like a girl and praying to a God that I don’t believe in).
The Sloth and Jaguar costs $30 for an hour and half tour from an enthusiastic tour guide in either a Spanish or English-speaking group. Although the title of the place only mentions jaguars and sloths – the centre takes in all injured wild animals from surrounding areas, restores them back to health and rehabilitates them back into their natural habitat.
The main features of the place are the insanely adorable baby monkeys and baby sloths – you’re not allowed to hold any of these animals, only the trained volunteers can. I’m not going to lie, you’ll have a strong desire to hug them and their cuteness will kill you! The volunteers clearly care for the animals and every one had its own name and funny personal anecdote about its story or personality.
Toucans and ant-eaters also live there!
Also, wild pelicans strut around with the unwavering confidence of an average-looking white man.
The Jaguar and Sloth Rescue centre was thoroughly enjoyable, well worth the trip to the coast and the box of responsible animal tourism is getting a big tick for this one. 🙂