Wildlife. Not Entertainers

From wild animal selfies to swimming with dolphins and elephant riding to petting lion cubs and taking tiger selfies, cruelty to animals in the entertainment industry is rampant.

What is wildlife entertainment?

World Animal Protection defines wildlife entertainment as using wild animals primarily for entertaining people, in ways that cause harm, stress or discomfort to the animals, or by displaying them in demeaning ways. Within such situations wild animals are kept in inadequate living conditions that cause continuous suffering. They will also experience pain as part of the training methods. For example, orangutans are trained to re-enact kick-boxing matches, tiger cubs are made to pose with tourists for selfies, and elephants are forced to give rides and perform shows.

Elephants don’t walk tight ropes in the wild. Bears don’t dance. Dolphins don’t tail walk.

Unnatural behaviors

A “once-in-a-lifetime” experience for you is their entire life filled with suffering. Often these animals exhibit stereotypical—abnormal and repetitive­­—behavior from their lives in captivity. These repetitive motions are a sign of psychological distress in animals and include but are not limited to: elephants swaying back and forth while bobbing their heads; dolphins swimming in repetitive circles in tiny tanks; big cats pacing back and forth in enclosures too small; and orcas and other cetaceans beaching themselves on performance platforms or gnawing on and ramming into gates.

Not only are these stereotypical behaviors not seen in wild animals, the tricks animals in captivity are forced to perform are completely unnatural to them. Elephants don’t walk tight ropes in the wild. Bears don’t dance. Dolphins don’t tail walk.

In captive marine parks, cetaceans are often out of the water waiving their pectoral fins or raising their caudal fin (tail) for selfies. Because whales and dolphins evolved to live underwater, beaching themselves as a photo prop puts a tremendous amount of weight on their organs and can lead to serious health issues.

Horrific training techniques ensure the animals are submissive enough to perform tricks, spend their long lives chained, and continuously give rides to paying tourists.

Separated from families

Animals abused in the entertainment industry are often separated from their families. Many dolphins living in marine parks around the world were captured from the wild and separated from their pods. Others have been bred in captivity and sold or “loaned” to different marine parks to breed more animals for the industry.

Tiger and lion cubs are taken from their mothers (sometimes at just a month old) and are constantly chained or left in small, barren cages for tourists to handle and hug for selfies. Some big cat facilities drug the animals when they get older so tourists can snap the perfect selfie. When captive-bred lions grow too old for tourists to hug and hold but are still young, the animals are sometimes viciously retrained for “walk with lions” experiences. When they become unmanageable, they are abandoned or discarded at roadside zoos.

Elephants in the entertainment industry are taken from their mothers, beaten, and endure ongoing physical and psychological abuse during training when they’re young. Our Taken For A Ride study noted that captive elephants are primarily taken from the wild, although in some countries—including the United States­­—they are bred in captivity.

Horrific training techniques ensure the animals are submissive enough to perform tricks, spend their long lives chained, and continuously give rides to paying tourists. Bullhooks (sharp training tools used to hit or stab elephants) remind the elephants of their abusive training and human dominance.


  • Bottlenose dolphins are six times more likely to die immediately after capture from the wild and transfer between facilities.
  • Wild cetaceans (whales and dolphins) travel 40-100 miles a day, achieve speeds of 30 miles per hour, and dive hundreds of feet deep. Even in the largest facilities, cetaceans have less than 0.0001% (one millionth) of their natural habitat range.
  • Captive marine mammals suffer from a huge range of health problems, including extreme stress, neurotic behaviors and abnormal levels of aggression.
  • There’s a 96% chance that an attraction offering saddled rides or shows keeps elephants in cruel and unacceptable living conditions.
  • When not giving rides or performing, elephants are typically chained day and night, most of the time to chains less than 10 feet long.
  • Between 2010 and 2016 in Thailand alone, 17 fatalities and 21 serious injuries to people by captive elephants were reported in the media. Unreported incidents involving local elephant keepers mean this figure is likely an underestimate.

What you can do

Join us in protecting wild animals around the world

Since 2010 more than 220 travel companies have joined World Animal Protection to implement elephant and wildlife-friendly commitments. This is in no small part to people around the world speaking up for animals. We are grateful for your support. To view our list of elephant-friendly travel companies, click here.

To get involved with World Animal Protection’s campaigns and speak up for animals abused in the entertainment industry, click here.

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