Online travel company Expedia will be removing wildlife tours and activities that pose a threat to animal welfare. The move comes amid several investigative reports from animal rights groups in recent years, which have brought to light the abuses many animals suffer when featured as tourist attractions.

Along with removing certain bookable activities that involve interactions with animals, Expedia also announced plans to launch a new “Wildlife Tourism Education Portal”, which will present detailed information on animal-related activities, later this year.

The programme is being developed with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the US Wildlife Trafficking Alliance, Born Free Foundation, the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International.

“As travellers, it is important that we know more about the places we go to, the activities we engage in, and the ways in which we leave lasting impacts on our destinations,” said vice president, Expedia Local Expert Jen O’Twomney, in a statement. “As we help people go places, we want to help them do it thoughtfully and responsibly.”

The portal will feature information about whether or not an activity involves animal interactions, and a direct link on wildlife tourism and animal welfare.

“Our planet’s wildlife is disappearing at a devastating rate as poachers meet consumer demand for exotic wildlife products,” added US Wildlife Trafficking Alliance executive director Sara Walker, in a statement. “With its significant global reach and influence, the travel and tourism industry can make an enormous impact in helping to end the scourge of wildlife trafficking.”

In June, animal welfare group World Animal Protection released a comprehensive report that revealed three-quarters of Asia’s captive elephants are kept in poor or unacceptable conditions. For the investigation, researchers spent two years visiting 220 venues across Asia and found that Thailand was the biggest offender when it comes to abusing elephants.

Riding elephants also topped the group’s 2016 report on the world’s cruellest animal tourist attractions, followed by “tiger selfies”, which became hugely popular. Last year, a Scottish tourist was trampled and gored to death while riding an elephant in Thailand. – AFP Relaxnews