Asian Elephants in Captivity: A Closer Look

This article is reposted from Buffalo Tours website…


Last year, Buffalo Tours launched an ambitious initiative to tackle an important issue: the welfare of captive elephants in Asia. Coming from a long history in logging, many elephants now live in captivity within tourism camps whose main income is elephant riding – a practice that raises important questions about animal welfare. As leaders in responsible travel, Buffalo Tours completed an encompassing review of our tours to establish strict welfare standards, with the ambition to phase out riding in the future.

A year on, we invited Nicolas Dubrocard of WildAsia on a visit a collection of camps to shed light on the issue, our initiative and the future of captive elephants in Asia. Go behind-the-scenes with him for a closer look at our steps toward lasting change. This is the story from his perspective.


My first would-be interaction with wild elephants was only a few years ago. I was in Khao Yai National Park – a vast and beautiful region of Thailand just a stone’s throw from Bangkok. The two-day trip was a master class in wildlife spotting – bats, giant lizards, birds and deer darted in and out of view while we trekked and drove our way through dense jungle foliage.

We were mesmerised by the life of the jungle, but our group of eight was most looking forward to one particular wildlife close encounter: spotting wild elephants.

I remember the sun beginning to set on our second day, and a palpable excitement course through our group. This was the golden hour for elephants, our guide told us, and it was just a matter of time before the gentle giants wandered into our peripheral. All of us were squeezed into the back of a pick-up truck, oblivious to our discomfort as we rattled toward an area where elephant spotting was best.

Khao Yai Guide

The truck came to a halt, and we spilled out onto a quiet park road flanked by jungle. Minutes passed as our group waited silently, motionless for fear that any movement would spook the creatures still hidden in the trees. The sun was nearly beyond the horizon, and our eyes darted to our guide, whose gentle smile was beginning to give way to worry.

Suddenly the walkie on his hip crackled to life, and after a few muffled words of Thai, he urged us back into the truck. “There are elephants on the other side of the park,” he assured us, before throwing the truck into drive and speeding down the road well above the speed limit. Our cameras ready, we tumbled back out of the truck a few minutes later as our guide motioned triumphantly toward a pile of elephant droppings. While the most enthusiastic of the bunch began snapping photos, I remained in my seat, feeling dejected.

Khao Yai Wild Elephant

As the night fell and our hopes of seeing wild elephants evaporated, the atmosphere in my car shifted from happy anticipation to forlorn disappointment. Many knew that this would be the last time they’d ever have an opportunity to see wild elephants, and I could sense the frustration hidden behind their sad expressions.

“Did we really care about the elephants, or did we care about the photos on our camera instead?”

Yet only hours ago, these same sad faces were overcome with excitement at the prospect of experiencing elephants in the wild. Despite my own disappointment, the shift of the group’s energy made me wonder – what made international travellers react this way? If these elephants were living in peace, comfort and freedom, who were we to change things for our own amusement? Did we really care about the elephants, or did we care about the photos on our camera instead? Being part of this paradox left a bad taste in my mouth.

Close Encounters

A few years later, I would find myself in Ayutthaya, Thailand with my wife. She had one goal in mind – to ride an elephant. We travelled to an elephant camp where dozens of tourists were queuing near a raised platform, climbing aboard an elephant for a 20-minute ride along a busy road packed with cars and trucks.

Based only on what I saw with my own two eyes, I had a gut feeling that something was off. It was hot – nearly 40 degrees in the sun – and the elephants appeared to be anything but happy. The procession seemed a million miles away from the lush national park in which I’d once hoped to see elephants in their natural habitat. If wild elephants lived hidden within the depths of a lush Thai jungle, how could this environment be appropriate for the very same creatures?

elephant

With a strange sense of discomfort, I decided not to go for a ride, and let my wife to go along without me. She jokingly dubbed me a “sustainability freak”, even though I’d never considered myself an animal welfare advocate before. To me, it wasn’t a matter of ethics or animal welfare – what lay in front of me was common sense.

My stroll around the camp solidified by discomfort. These incredible creatures were living in squalor – on extremely short chains attached to trees, swinging back and forth on their front legs like a metronome. Nearby, tourists goaded the creatures with bananas or corn, snapping selfies as the visibly concerned but powerless mahouts looked on.

“To me, it wasn’t a matter of ethics or animal welfare – what lay in front of me was common sense.”

In front of me was a prime example of supply and demand. The care of the elephants surely relied on the income of the camp, and even well-meaning tourists threw money at the opportunity to tick another item off of their bucket list by riding an elephant. Meanwhile, camp owners and mahouts gave the tourists what they wanted – knowing full-well that by doing anything less, the camp’s income (and ultimately the capital for the elephant’s care) would dry up.

A History of Struggle

I’d learn later that these incredible creatures were often veterans of the logging trade, and came from even more dire working conditions than the tourist camps. In 1989, logging was officially banned in Thailand after a series of disastrous floods that wreaked havoc on local communities. In a desperate bid to keep their gargantuan wards fed and sheltered, the out-of-work elephants’ mahouts would send them to the only place they knew they could: to the elephant camps.

Bathing time for elephants

With the cost of feeding a single captive elephant for one day at $30 – and with average monthly income in Thailand just under $500  caring for these creatures required one important thing: money. Despite popular belief, captive elephants are virtually impossible to release back into the wild, and require care and food throughout their 50-year life spans. The industry was faced with a dilemma – allow the elephants to die out, or provide an incentive for tourists to visit elephant camps with their vital travel dollars?

“The industry was faced with a dilemma – allow the elephants to die out, or provide an incentive for tourists to visit elephant camps with their vital travel dollars?”

Thus, the market for elephant riding was born – fueled by the well-meaning but misguided aspirations of travellers. While many camps attempted to build a larger boundary between the elephants and visitors, travel dollars most often funneled toward camps that provided the biggest “bang for the buck”.  More often than not, these same camps were the ones with the worst treatment of their elephants.

elephant 2

But in the early 2000s, the public began waking up to the mistreatment within the elephant tourism industry. Shocked and appalled by the treatment many captive elephants endured, a flurry of elephant riding and elephant camp boycotts sprung up among the travel community. Yet, even as more informed travellers call for an end to all elephant riding, the gaps that they leave behind are quickly filled by those that either don’t know or don’t care about elephant welfare.  Which leaves those committed to lasting change with an important question: how can change at a demand level really work?

Change at a Demand Level

In my work with Wild Asia, I collaborate with countless hospitality and travel brands in order to make the travel industry more responsible and sustainable. In recent years, the discussion about elephant welfare began bubbling to the surface – and around the same time, the responsible travel team at Buffalo Tours approached me with an exciting new project.

The Buffalo team was embarking on a massive and encompassing audit of all of the elephant camps that they worked with, using a lengthy set of criteria. The intention was to not only source camps that were the gold standard for elephant welfare, but also find those that were committed to making a change but needed support in doing so.

“The intention was to not only source camps that were the gold standard for elephant welfare, but also find those that were committed to making a change but needed support in doing so.”

The goal was two-fold: reward responsible camps with more business, as well as give other worthy camps the tools and incentive they needed to change their operations. By doing so, the Buffalo team hoped that they could be at the forefront of a massive change. But as a team of locals, they knew that this quantum shift must begin with discourse. Only then could they lead camp owners away from the quick win, and toward a more responsible future.

elephant 3

In April of 2016, I was lucky enough to visit three of Buffalo Tours’ proudest examples of change in Thailand. Throughout my visits to these three elephant camps, I learned about what change really looks like at a demand level – and about how travellers themselves play a massive part in all of it. In part two of this series, I’ll share these lessons I learnt and how I see the future for elephants in Asia.

 

Club Med Cherating – Finalist, Nature & Wildlife

FINALIST - 2015 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards, Best in Protection of Natural Areas & Wildlife Conservation 

Completely integrating into the surrounding preserved environment, Club Med Cherating offers visitors an environmentally-friendly sanctuary having kept 75% of the surrounding forest completely untouched. A few of their impressive environmental initiatives include a partnership with the nearby Turtle Sanctuary and an informative botanical tour of the grounds for guests.

Since 2010 the Club Med Cherating management as implemented a sustainable development management system that enables the resort to address different sustainable tourism issues including biodiversity. As part of this system each staff member takes a turn as the Green Globe Coordinator, giving them direct management over environmental issues. Eventually most members of staff will have taken a turn as the Green Globe Coordinator.

A few of Club Med Cherating’s impressive environmental initiatives include:

  • Natural lagoon wastewater treatment system, which enables the resort to treat its wastewater, recycle it to be used for irrigation, and creating a biodiverse pond.
  • Green waste is mulched and used as soil cover.
  • The implementation of organic fertilizers.
  • A partnership with the Turtle Sanctuary to promote turtle conservation.
  • Environmental and wildlife education programs for children run through Mini Club Med.
  • Integrating a botanical tour of the resort for guests, complete with a wildlife guide book.

In the future Club Med Cherating aims to maintain their Sustainable Development Management System through yearly reviews and bi-annual on-site audits. They hope to continue improving in areas such as promoting wildlife awareness to their customers and providing more information about sustainable tourism. They also hope to develop a partnership with the local school in which employees will dedicate time to teaching English and the resort will allow their facilities to be used for sports activities.

For more information about Club Med Cherating, visit their website: http://www.clubmed.us/cm/resort-cherating-beach-malaysia_p-115-l-US-v-CHEC-ac-vh.html?CMCID=SNN179636478102

Watch their video here

Gaya Island – Winner, Nature & Wildlife

WINNER - 2015 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards, Best in Protection of Natural Areas & Wildlife Conservation 

Tucked along the coast of Malohom Bay, Gaya Island Resort offers guests a seamless integration of luxury and the natural world. Offering a set of “PURE Activities” guests can interact with the surrounding rare species of flora and fauna, facilitated by the resort’s resident naturalist. In addition to their environmental programs for guests, Gaya Island Resort has started initiatives to educate local communities on protecting their beautiful home.

Gaya Island Resort believes tourism is a positive platform for wildlife education, as long as it’s conducted in a careful manner as to maintain a positive impact Many of Gaya Islands programs, such as guided nature hikes and snorkelling excursions are only offered to a limited number of participants to keep from overwhelming or damaging the surrounding environment. But that doesn’t mean guests can also get up close and personal with nature. Visitors can experience the resort’s mangrove conservation efforts through the Mangrove Kayak Tour. Along with a guide, guests explore the diverse mangrove ecosystem while learning about the resident flora and fauna.

Activities such as handicraft classes, a traditional dance show, and dining experiences draw inspiration from the diverse tribes found in Borneo and give guests a greater insight into the local culture. At turn-down, guests are given a beaded keychain from the Rungus community, one of the many ethnic groups in the area, along with an informational leaflet.

Not only are educational experiences offered to guests. Through the Gaya Island Resort Marine Centre (GIRMC), Gaya Island facilitates education programs in the area schools to teach students about the local sea turtle populations, coral, and the importance of keeping the ocean clean. In addition to their education initiative, GIRMC works closely with a leading turtle conservationist and is the first turtle rescue centre in Malaysia to  successfully rescue, rehabilitate, and release endangered sea turtles.

For more information about Gaya Island Resort, visit their website: http://www.gayaislandresort.com/

Watch their video here

India’s first ever reversal of a local extinction

&Beyond’s pioneering Gaur translocation project in Bandhavgarh National Park

LOGO_Inspiring Stories from Destinations_2012-page-001&Beyond’s pioneering model of low-impact, high-yield wildlife tourism is based on our ethic of Care of the Land, Care of the Wildlife, Care of the People. Tried and tested for more than twenty years, we believe in sharing the skills we have gained through the implementation of this model to benefit the preservation of wildlife not only in Africa but further afield. Our passion to ensure that we protect the great wildlife areas of the world, leaving a legacy for the next generation, has driven us to partner with conservation authorities in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh to carry out a ground-breaking translocation. Aimed at reversing the local extinction of the gaur in Bandhavgarh National Park, an additional goal of this public-private partnership was to carry out training and create the capability for Indian wildlife officials to complete subsequent relocations of other species on their own.

andBeyond_Gaur Translocation image 2v2For years, Indian conservation policy had focussed solely on the preservation of protected areas, with limited wildlife management. Indian forestry officials were aware that gaur had gone extinct in Bandhavgarh National Park, but were not sure how to reverse this extinction. While working with Madhya Pradesh Forest Department (MPFD) on establishing our circuit of four jungle lodges in India, &Beyond became aware of this situation. We immediately saw this as an opportunity not only to help restore a species to its natural habitat but to share our knowledge of translocation techniques and develop this capacity in the MPFD.

As a pioneer in responsible sustainable travel, &Beyond’s model of restoring and conserving regional biodiversity has often required animal translocations and re-introductions. As a result, the company has considerable experience in this area and Group Conservation Manager Les Carlisle has planned and implemented the translocation of more than 40,000 heads of wildlife in several African countries.

With &Beyond providing the expertise for the project, the initiative required five years of meticulous collaboration and planning with the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department, which oversees some of India’s largest tracts of protected land, and the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), which is responsible for the research that is used to help identify priorities and formulate guidelines for wildlife conservation in the country.

In the words of Dr HS Pabla, then the Chief Wildlife Warden of Madhya Pradesh, “Other than retrieving the lost biodiversity of Bandhavgarh, the project was aimed at building the capacity of the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department and the Wildlife Institute of India in the field of the capture and translocation of large animals. It was also meant to show what public-private partnerships could accomplish. Mridula Tangirala, Director of Operations at Taj Safari Lodges, and Les Carlisle, Group Conservation manager at &Beyond, worked tirelessly to obtain the approvals of their companies expeditiously. Les made several trips to India just to ensure that the construction of bomas and modification of trucks was exactly as required.”

The transfer of skills was a vital part of the project. Recognising the need to share Africa’s unique conservation skills, Indian conservation officials were invited to &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve to learn the techniques of darting and loading buffalo. During the planning phase, some of the best buffalo specialists in the world focused on teaching and re-creating their skills base in India. KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife staff took the Indian officials to inspect holding bomas and they were also given the opportunity to take part in animal capture exercises at Hluhluwe Game Reserve. The designs for animal capture trucks and stretchers were shared with the Indian team, who arranged for them to be adapted and re-created by an Indian company so that all the required equipment could be manufactured on the spot.

With the initial phase complete, the &Beyond team travelled to India to begin full scale training with the MPFD and WII teams. This stage included a few vital adaptations to the Indian national parks infrastructure. Reserves in India are not fenced, however Les Carlisle argued strongly for the need to build reinforced reintroduction bomas to contain and protect the gaur after translocation. As a result, a holding boma was constructed for the animals at Bandhavgarh National Park, where they were to be released. This would allow the gaur to become habituated to their new home and would keep tigers out of the newly reintroduced population until the animals had settled in.

The next phase of the project included &Beyond’s experts working with Indian officials to obtain the correct permits to import the drugs required and to translocate the animals. It took nearly a year to get the import permits into place and have the drugs sent to India. With a narrow window during the Indian winter when it is cool enough to subject animals to the stresses of the move, the translocation was planned for January 2011.

The total operation team consisted of more than thirty field rangers and another thirty senior officers. The field staff made up two stretcher teams of twelve to fifteen men. Ten days before the operation was due to begin, Les Carlisle began to practice each move of the procedure with the Indian teams. This training was crucial as it ensured that, once the operation began, every member of the team understood exactly what they were to do.

andBeyond_Les Carlisle_Gaur Translocation image 1v2As the operation moved into full swing, it became obvious that the training had paid off. As animal after animal was tracked, darted and then loaded in the translocation trucks, the longest it took for this process to be completed for one animal was 38 minutes. With recovery time after giving the antidote to the drug between one and five minutes, no animal took longer than 50 minutes from the time it was darted to until it was awake and standing in the holding boma, a time really difficult to achieve within the norms of animal translocation.

With the Indian teams rapidly becoming more experienced at what they were doing, after the first 14 animals &Beyond’s experts stood back, allowing them to dart and translocate the last five gaur on their own. Everything proceeded as planned and the relocation was a huge success, with 19 gaur safely darted and transported during the first test phase. A breakthrough achievement in Indian conservation, this translocation was followed by the subsequent movement of another 31 gaur in January 2012, this time carried out mainly by Indian wildlife authorities. This brought the total number of gaur moved to the recommended number of 50.

With the success of reversing a local extinction measured by how well the new population does in its environment, the gaur herd in Bandhavgarh has grown steadily over the years. Despite tiger-inflicted mortalities, the herd is thriving in its new home, with the recent birth of the 19th calf since the reintroduction.

The first partnership between a wildlife tourism operator and the Forestry Department in India, the translocation has cleared the way for the implementation of other conservation initiatives in Madhya Pradesh state and in all of India.

“Encouraged by the success of this project, the state has already proposed the translocation of several other species to reverse local extinctions in Madhya Pradesh. The barasingha is set to return to Bori Sanctuary and the blackbuck is going to return to Kanha. We can even dream of creating whole new wildlife assemblages from scratch if secure space is available, through the translocation of prey and predators from other sources, rather than waiting for ages to let it happen on its own. Let us hope that this project will prove to be a harbinger of change in our approach to conservation, which it was always meant to be. Perhaps we will no longer just wring our hands when the extinction of a particular species looms in front of us. We can now prevent or reverse such local extinctions, thanks to the Gaur Project,” sums up Dr Pabla.

 

Papua Expeditions, Indonesia – Most Inspiring Tour Operator

finalist[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his post congratulates Papua Expeditions for being recognized as a 2013 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards Finalist. This award recognizes the tour operator that excels in all of the above categories by taking into consideration all the key principles of responsible tourism (maximum positive impacts to the local community and minimum negative impacts to the environment) and awards innovation for this most inspiring responsible tourism business of the year.

Papua Expeditions offers keened-out, professionally guided birding, general wildlife, hiking and trekking expeditions in New Guinea’s Wild West. Permanently based in West Papua, their ecotourism programme focuses exclusively on the little-known western half of New Guinea under Indonesian administration.

Our favourite things about them!

  • Excellent policy in regards to attracting local people, not sending guests to ceremonies, all round excellent responsible business model.
  • A good example of responsible tourism business in a destination that face various external challenges in terms of business conditions.
  • An inspiring model demonstrating that responsible business ethics and sustainability practices are important no matter what.
  • “Learning while doing” training approach to support local capacity building.
  • 100% local staff.
  • Strong stance against exploitation of children.
  • Focus on growing regional client base as a concrete example of positive and business-focused climate action.
  • Within a remarkable and largely undiscovered destination, provides inspiring management, contributes to community engagement and development, cultural preservation and the protection of natural areas and wildlife conservation.

Inspiring Management

  • Provide information on web, pre-tour guide, and through interaction on tours on sustainable tourism approaches.
  • Internal environmental and social impact assessments.
  • Operates in a corrupt and poor region and maintains policy on clean governance, following ‘legal mass’ to adopt most appropriate solution under conflicting circumstances.
  • Trains staff ‘learning while doing’.
  • Consults tribal leaders about fluid land ownership laws to ensure their accommodation suppliers are compliant.
  • Published article on practice in eco tourism publications to inspire others.
  • 2010 Highly Commended Wild Asia RT Awards.

Community Engagement and Development

  • Provide ‘respectful usage’ fee to local communities for conservation.
  • Prevent ‘pay and go’ attitude and have long term MOU agreement with host communities to make benefits more long lasting.
  • Established Cenderawasih Fund for Community Development, 10% net profit donated. Funds small scale initiatives e.g. health care, social conflict resolution, relief, education.
  • 100% local workforce, 100% local management.
  • Yearly staff review and identify training needs.
  • Purchase local organic fresh produce and adhere to local market fares, to prevent tourist inflation which results in local people out-competed.
  • Support like-minded businesses wherever possible.
  • Encourage guests to buy local services not included in activities e.g. handicrafts.
  • Employ up to 80 different day-workers per month, all of whom are entitled to ancestral land-rights and/or reside at the destinations within portfolio, all receive the same basic training through ‘learning while doing’.
  • Facilitate ‘inter-cultural exchanges’ of motivated day-workers between destinations, it provides networking and possibilities for learning from culturally different Papuans. Proved beneficial toward character- and leadership-building.
  • Carefully selected city hotels with policies against sexual exploitation of children.
  • Do what they can to promote women’s rights and equality but can prove challenging given cultural context.
  • Staff exceed provincial minimum wage.
  • Tours are delivered by indigenous people so able to communicate after each tour feedback; bi-annual meets with land-owners and village elders.

Cultural Preservation

  • Do not engage guests with ceremonies as have strong reservations whether it adds value to local people. Rather they promote experiencing day-to-day life instead.
  • Always respects any prohibitions on visitation imposed by indigenous communities and closely follow their instructions where visitation is permitted.
  • Local language is provided in briefing.

Resource Efficiency

  • Oppose printed materials, online business.
  • Garbage prevention policy, non-recyclable waste is no more than 15g per guest per day.
  • Use of battery power or fire wood (local traditional methods) only in the field.
  • Office – energy efficient lighting and laptops, switch off policy.
  • Water usage is very low so little opportunity to reduce further.
  • Does not use carbon offsetting as remains controversial.

Protection of Natural Areas and Wildlife Conservation

  • Encouraging more Australia guests (now about 70% of guests) rather than European or USA to reduce international travel.
  • Encourages locals against deforestation by bringing tourists to those areas because of those natural resources.
  • Maximise use of public transport or use energy efficient vehicles if hired.
  • 5 year pilot project in Raja Ampat – agreement with customary landowners in a bid to preserve the entire Orobiai River catchment (92 sq km of virtually untouched primary forest, set in visually stunning topography, and globally threatened wildlife).
  • Community Conservation and Ecotourism Agreement (CCEA) seals direct structured payments by Papua Expeditions to customary land-holding groups on Waigeo in return for carefully defined and monitored conservation and education outcomes.
  • Indigenous guides have clear understanding of conservation issues and communicate with guests.
  • Provide birding guidelines to prevent disturbance.
  • Improved access through close consultation and assistance from indigenous communities, improved more than sixty kilometres of trails across the destinations.

Sukau Rainforest Lodge – Most Inspiring Accommodation

finalist[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his post congratulates Sukau Rainforest Lodge for being recognized as a 2013 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards Finalist. This award recognizes the accommodation provider that excels in all of the above categories by taking into consideration all the key principles of responsible tourism (maximum positive impacts to the local community and minimum negative impacts to the environment) and awards innovation for this most inspiring accommodation of the year.

Sukau Rainforest Lodge nestles on the banks of one of Borneo’s most important waterways, the Kinabatangan River, home to many of Borneo’s magnificent wildlife. Sukau Rainforest Lodge offers the rare comfort and luxury in the midst of the Borneo Rainforest whilst retaining an Eco-Lodge ethos, the delicate balance of true sustainability.

Our favourite things about them!

  • Uses external experts to assist/advise on compliance issues.
  • Makes a significant contribution – mostly at own expense – to promoting benefits of sustainable tourism practice and ecotourism in Borneo and wider afield.
  • Consistent efforts to educate tourists and the industry about ecotourism for over a decade through different media and techniques.
  • Commitment to partnership and multi-stakeholder approach (e.g. set up association). Several international awards.
  • Active conservation and environmental practices – supporting KiTA, projects through BEST Society, etc. The BEST Society, of which the Founder is also the chair man has implemented lots of projects, which are reported annually and available to learn about online on the best website. It’s a great achievement to have raised over 1 million RM on community projects.
  • Good wages and welfare to staff. Weekly team meetings addressing staff’s personal development, supporting staff training opportunities – internal and external.
  • Wheelchair accessible.
  • Great interpretation practices to inform and educate guests.
  • Feedback from community leaders.
  • Responsible wildlife viewing practices.

 Inspiring Management

  • Internal environmental and social impact assessments delivered.
  • Guests receive information on sustainable tourism through own personal booklet.
  • Work with compliance team to maintain legal compliance, work with NGOs (e.g. WWF) and specialist to monitor environmental aspects.
  • Weekly staff meetings to share personal development, some staff sent for training, H&S for all staff twice a year.
  • Some rooms and all public areas have wheelchair accessibility.
  • MD is advisor to International Ecotourism Society board and speaks at events on responsible tourism.
  • 1997 British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Award.
  • World Travel Awards 2010 Winner for Best Asia Green Hotel award.
  •  Voted the top 50 best eco-lodges by National Geographic, 2009.

Community Engagement and Development

  • Provide opportunity for guests to vists local’s house, money goes direct to family, to learn about local culture.
  • Helped form KiTA, local tourism association, and its conservation levy scheme. Raised over RM1million to date through own and sister company, spent on community/conservation projects.
  • Provided 50 water tanks to local community.
  • Organised 3 medical camps, bringing doctor and dentist to local area.
  • School visits site twice a year to learn about conservation.
  • 53% local workforce, 40% of management are local people.
  • Hire local contractors, e.g. boat men or maintenance staff.
  • Provide internship opportunities for local people.
  • Policy to protect female staff, anyone who does not follow is immediately terminated and reported to police.
  • Newly constructed staff quarters, provide very good and better than other local standards of living.
  • Above minimum wage with other opportunities, e.g. share tips or night cruise fees.
  • Meet on ad hoc basis with community leaders and at times when delivering local projects.

Cultural Preservation

  • Do and Don’t provided by leaflet.
  • Design based on local style, reducing impact to trees, constructed by locals with as many local materials as possible.
  • All guests have to wear traditional sarung to dinner to immerse in local culture.
  • Sell regional crafts in the shop.

Resource Efficiency

  • Use of solar for water heating.
  • Avoid dependency on electricity by using e.g. kerosene lamps on walkways.
  • Inform guests about reducing energy and water through info in rooms.
  • Water from rain water harvesting and from river (treated) in dry season.
  • Water saving: toilets and showers.
  • Recently improved waste water management with new septic tanks installed.
  • All waste including recyclable taken offsite.
  • Performed risk assessment (2007) to identify risks from chemicals and have taken actions to prevent.

Protection of Natural Areas and Wildlife Conservation

  • Evening presentations and talks from naturalists to educate guests on conservation.
  • First business in area to get solar, set buildings back from river, electric motor on river cruises, wildlife guidelines and have waste management scheme.
  • Has tree planting programme aimed at carbon offsetting.
  • Guests told to reduce noise after 9pm.
  • 80.8% area left undeveloped. All flora on site are native.
  • Funded river clean up through KiTA, reforestation and rehabilitated hornbills, pangolin, and an owl at the lodge.
  • Boardwalk design allows for elephants to move across. 
T+L 2012‘Most Inspiring Responsible Tourism Accommodation Provider’ Award is sponsored by Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia.

Heritance Kandalama, Sri Lanka – Resource Efficiency

winner[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his post congratulates Heritance Kandalama for being recognized as a 2013 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards Winner. This award recognizes excellence in waste, water and energy management and sustainable architectural design in order to minimize your business’s environmental impact.

Heritance Kandalama is an architectural masterpiece by Geoffrey Bawa, built overlooking the eighth wonder of the world – the rock fortress of Sigiriya. The hotel sits at the heart of the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, close to five UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Our favourite things about them!

  • A well known contributor to sustainable tourism practices across Asia Pacific.
  • First-mover advantage in sustainable tourism certification in the region.
  • Excellent Resource efficiency policy, clear targets and action plans.

 Inspiring Management

  • Winner of National Productivity Awards Sri Lanka for Service sector.
  • Gold Medal for Cleaner Production, National Cleaner Production Awards.
  • 2012 Finalist Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards ‘Most Inspiring Operator’.
  • ISO140001, ISO50001 management systems.

Resource Efficiency

  • ISO140001, ISO50001 management systems for energy and water conservation.
  • Practice 7R’s: Reject, Reduce, Reuse, Reclaim, Repair, Replace and Recycle for sourcing and disposing (waste is monitored)
  • 13% renewable energy
  • Engage guests with environmentally friendly activities
  • GRI Reporting, National Green Reporting System of Sri Lanka (NGRs) for water withdrawl and consumption
  • Purchasing policy in place to promote local products
  • Deliver presentations to special interest groups on the environment
  • Three sewage treatment plants which process 100% of water, sludge is used as compost on their 50 acre land or sold to guests.
  • Organic waste is sent to local piggery farm for food.

Protection of Natural Areas and Wildlife Conservation

  • Use environmentally friendly products and all chemicals used are certified as biodegradable by the Central Environment Authority of Sri Lanka.
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Scuba Junkie, Malaysia – Protection of Natural Areas & Wildlife

winner[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his post congratulates Scuba Junkie for being recognized as a 2013 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards Winner. This award recognizes tourism businesses’ consideration of their local environment and biodiversity by actively supporting and protecting their natural assets.

Scuba Junkie provides daily dive trips to more than 25 islands in the Celebes Sea in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Whether you want macro diving at Mabul and Kapalai or wish to dive with sharks and turtles at Sipadan Island (frequently voted in the top 10 dives sites in the world) Scuba Junkie will take you there.

Our favourite things about them!

  • Good resource efficiency, educating guests, supports local projects.
  • Good environmental practices such as solar energy, sewage and grey water treatment, pollution control, native landscaping, etc.
  • Good practices and staff engagement in beach cleanups, reef cleanup dives, etc.
  • Full-time environmental officer.
  • Initiatives to reduce emissions such as boat/transfer sharing.
  • Efforts to reduce stress on reef areas frequented by divers.
  • Exemplary education / awareness raising, solar power, $70,000 spent on waste cleaning, best available sewage treatment, reef check, turtle hatchery, no seafood (wow!) and dive against debris.
  • Makes a worthwhile contribution to marine animal and coastal area conservation.
  • Has a strong commitment to sustainable tourism practices.

Inspiring Management

  • 2012 Winner Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards ‘Best in Protection of Natural Areas and/or Wildlife Conservation’

Community Engagement and Development

  • Access to local communities remains open around the resort.
  • Staff, guests and local community are engaged in e.g. beach cleans, school projects.
  • Each year spend around $70,000 supporting local waste removal scheme for local community who do not have government support (Bajau Laut community “sea gypsies”) = 150 bins and 10 skips.

Resource Efficiency

  • Use solar energy for water heating but aware of need to explore other options, in discussion with consultants about improving energy efficiency and use of fuels.
  • Recycle area for staff and guests in restaurant.
  • Approximately 80% of products used are biodegradable and are actively looking for ways to improve.

Protection of Natural Areas and Wildlife Conservation

  • All land rights and environmental regulations are adhered to.
  • Buildings from 60m off the hide tide line to allow access, preserve sea grass and protect nesting turtles.
  • Guests provided with information on local customs and environment through compulsory welcome briefing, sign boards and information in their rooms.
  • Weekly presentations on shark conservation and sea turtles, pressures and importance are discussed. Also similar at expos, for government, local and international media. To date, hundreds to presentations on the topic.
  • Best available sewage treatment plant, Grade A with hydroponic system to water plants with output water and sludge drying beds. Nothing raw released into sea.
  • Grease traps in kitchen and grey water processed via onsite Biosolv treatment plant.
  • Weekly ‘Dive against Debris’ cleans up, non-recyclable waste taken to mainland and managed by government body.
  • Have an environmental area in communal part of resort, TV runs showing their achievements and how guests can play a part.
  • Chair Mabul Marine week event and run the Mabul Turtle Hatchery, managed by trained staff and supported by community ‘rangers’. Last year, hatched thousands of eggs.
  • Do not use chemical on gardens (use native plants) to prevent run off into sea.
  • Use low level lighting on jetty to reduce light pollution.
  • Employ a full time Environment Officer (and two Marine Biologists) to engage staff and guests with issues; all staff trained in environmental practices.
  • Do not serve any seafood because none available locally that is sourced sustainably.
  • All dive guides have excellent reputation for providing ‘do and don’t’ in briefings.
  • Certified reef check dive centre, have a reef check trainer and provide eco dive master courses.
  • Advise Semporna Shark Sanctuary (aim to protect wider Sipadan area and reefs) and support the Manta Trust.
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Ranweli Holiday Village, Sri Lanka – Protection of Natural Areas & Wildlife

finalist[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his post congratulates Ranweli Holiday Village for being recognized as a 2013 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards Finalist. This award recognizes tourism businesses’ consideration of their local environment and biodiversity by actively supporting and protecting their natural assets.

Ranweli Holiday Village is an eco-friendly resort located on a 22-acre peninsula where mangrove forests and winding rivers converge to meet the sea. Located only 18 kms from Colombo’s International Airport, Ranweli is the perfect base to explore the fascinating history, culture and nature of Sri Lanka.

Our favourite things about them!

  • Solid business record – 38 years in operation, 75% occupancy.
  • Good practices to reduce pollution, treat waste water, re-use grey water and minimize non-recyclable waste.
  • Good practices to protect native species.
  • Good idea to incorporate environmental education into welcome cocktail party.
  • Lots of tangible examples: e.g. contributions to conservation, education, carbon offsetting, sewage treatment, green purchasing, and mangrove rehab.
  • Massive impact (almost 50,000 guests / year).
  • A recognised ecolodge in Sri Lanka with a proven track-record for responsible approached to tourism.
  • Makes a concerted effort to protect natural areas and conserve wildlife.

Inspiring Management

  • One of the Top 50 Eco-Lodges of 2009, National Geographic Adventure magazine.
  • EU SWITCH – Asia Greening Hotels Awards 2012 Certificate of Merit for Energy and Water Conservation and Waste Management.

Community Engagement and Development

  • Contributed donations to a local conservation project and worked with school children on their mangrove rehabilitation project.

Protection of Natural Areas and Wildlife Conservation

  • Deliver talks, guided walks and welcome briefings to educate guests on local natural area and how to reduce waste.
  • Conduct carbon offsetting project.
  • Mangrove rehabilitation project close to hotel premises looked after by the hotel.
  • Biological sewage treatment plant onsite.
  • Waste water is treated and recycled for watering plants.
  • Has a green purchasing policy to reduce non-recyclable waste, e-waste returned to supplier.
  • Lobster not served during breeding season, and not purchased if under 200g.
  • 25% of property area remains undeveloped.
  • Use of native plants, e.g. indigenous fruit trees, herbal garden, food plants to attract butterflies.

Tourism & Conservation in Malaysia

Seeing a turtle, a tiger or any other animal in its wild natural habitat is a breathtaking experience not only for a nature lover, but anyone easily enthralled by pure beauty. Unfortunately opportunities to do so worldwide are getting smaller and smaller as both turtles and tigers are under the threat of extinction in many locations, including Malaysia.

Fortunately for us and the wildlife there is a lot that can be done to preserve both of these beautiful animals on Malaysian land. A variety of organisations aware of the preservation issues have put a lot of effort to support the environment and made it possible for others, including tourists, to get in involved. Anyone, regardless of their skills, can get involved in a number of conservation projects across the country.

Joining a programme like these enables you to not only learn about the wildlife of Malaysia but you also get a chance to help preserve them, this is Ecotourism at its best. - Daniel Quilter, Ecoteer founder

Hiking

Photo taken from http://ecoteerresponsibletravel.com

One of few organisations who realised the need for action is Ecoteer Responsible Travel having established a variety of conservation projects in partnership with credible NGOs such as MYCAT and local stakeholders in order to help preserve the best of Malaysian wildlife. Now tourists can be part of several conservation projects in Malaysia while on holiday.

Tiger conservation at Merapoh, on the borders of Taman Negara, is one of such important programmes run by Ecoteer. The aim of the project is to maintain the wildlife corridor between Taman Negara and main mountain range used by tigers to pass through. The corridor is there to allow migration of wildlife while avoiding isolation and preserving the continuity of number of species, including (apart from tigers) elephants, rhinos, sun bears and leopards. Protecting and improving the corridor is the daily duty of many volunteers who decided to participate to make a difference. Find out more about the Tiger Trail.

The Merapoh programme is something special, in a 2 day expedition the Ecoteer Team managed to find tracks of Sun Bear, Elephant and 2 leopards, plus we deactivated 2 snares and whilst collecting camera traps we captured photos of Sun Bear, Tapir, Golden Cat and a Tiger.  The animals are out there and so too are the poachers, join this programme and do the best thing you can do for Tiger conservation and remove a snare!

Alongside rainforest, Malaysian marine wildlife is another focal point of conservation projects based on the coast. Country’s famous green sea turtles are being monitored in Perthentian Islands by volunteers who have a unique chance to experience underwater wildlife protection whilst learning about the process and educating others, including tourists in the location.

The Perhentian islands are paradise, however many issues still exist like waste disposal and poaching of turtles eggs.  By Joining this programme you are helping to protect one out of 4 key nesting sites in the Perhentians.

Volunteering on conservation projects does not only benefit the wildlife, but also people involved. Programmes like the one in Taman Negara, are a great opportunity to discover the richness and learn about the complexity of rainforest ecosystem as well as difficulties involved in protection of such a vast natural area. Jungle trekking or diving with turtles are firsthand experiences not to be missed by nature lovers and all those concerned about environmental protection. After all it is the wildlife and people who make these places special. Travel & make a difference – support tiger and turtle conservation in Malaysia.