TripAdvisor will stop selling tickets to attractions that use captive whales or dolphins, the review site has announced.
Along with its subsidiary Viator, the brand will also sever all commercial ties with these attractions, ceasing to generate any revenue from them.
The changes will be rolled out over the next few months, with the policy expected to be in full force by the end of the year. It will not, however, apply to sea life sanctuaries that care for cetaceans already in captivity.
It follows TripAdvisor’s decision to stop selling tickets to experiences where travellers come into physical contact with captive wild animals, such as elephant rides and tiger petting, as well as animal shows and performances.
Animal welfare professionals have welcomed the move.
“TripAdvisor is on the right side of history,” said Dr Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute. “Whales and dolphins cannot thrive in captivity and enlightened tourists no longer tolerate exploiting these intelligent and socially complex marine predators for human entertainment.”
The company said it recognises that release into the wild is not a realistic option for most captive whales and dolphins; there are several stipulations in its new policy aimed at protecting the needs, safety and health of cetaceans currently in captivity.
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“We believe the current generation of whales and dolphins in captivity should be the last, and we look forward to seeing this position adopted more widely throughout the travel industry,” said Dermot Halpin, president of TripAdvisor Experiences and Rentals.
However, not everyone is happy with the decision. SeaWorld, the US chain of aquariums and theme parks, said it was “disappointed” by TripAdvisor’s new position “that ignores the educational value and conservation mission of professionally accredited zoos and aquariums".
Dr Chris Dold, SeaWorld’s chief zoological officer, told The Independent: “SeaWorld believes deeply in the mission of these organisations. As a member of WAZA, certified by American Humane, and accredited by AZA, as well as numerous other certifications and accreditations from leading accrediting bodies, SeaWorld maintains the highest standards of care for all animals, including cetaceans.
“And regardless of TripAdvisor’s position, SeaWorld will continue to advance education and animal conservation efforts along with our millions of supporters, professional scientists and other science based organisations around the world.”
TripAdvisor follows in the footsteps of Virgin Atlantic, which announced it would stop offering and promoting excursions to attractions and experiences featuring captive whales and dolphins in July this year.
The tour operator said it would prioritise more natural wildlife encounters instead, while cutting longstanding ties with SeaWorld, Discovery Cove and similar attractions.