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
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?