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The vast majority of respondents to a recent Phuket News poll oppose animal captivity for the purposes of tourism and entertainment, with some 89 per cent declaring strong opposition to the practice.
A mahout sits on a bull elephant, waiting for paying tourists who want to take photos, feed and ride on the beast at an outpost near Patong.
The results should come as little surprise, considering controversial incidents in recent months involving captive animals, which included two fatal attacks by tourist-trecking elephants on their respective owners, a tiger mauling an Australian tourist while posing for a photo with it, as well as the construction developments of a widely-opposed dolphinarium project on the south of the island.
Click here for original poll story with links to related news.
The poll, which ran online from November 19 to December 5, asked the question: What’s your stance on the use of animals for Phuket’s entertainment and tourism industries?
Respondents were given five options, and here’s how they answered:
I’m absolutely against it. All animal shows and services should be banned. (89pc)
Some types of animal shows and services are okay, but not all of them. (8pc)
If there is a demand, then Phuket should supply, as long no laws are broken. (1pc)
Animal shows/services can be educational for children and tourists. (1pc)
A total of 542 votes were cast by three demographic categories – Thai nationals (30pc), Local expatriate residents (15pc) and Foreign visitors to Phuket (54pc).
Of the voters, Thais and foreign tourists were nearly unanimous in their extreme opposition to animal tourism, with 92 and 94pc choosing answer number 1.
This is compared to expats, of whom just 65pc voted against the practice. Of this category, 25pc said that some types of animal tourism were okay, and another 5pc voted for Phuket to continue to feed market demand.
Even with such a clear scope on public opinion, there is a whole lot of tourists and operators who likely didn’t vote to reflect their position of not being against the practice, and who continue to feed the demand throughout Phuket by supporting elephant trekking tours and photo ops, attending monkey and bird shows, among other itineraries which sustain this industry.