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The 5 alternatives to the zoo

You like animals ? Leave zoos and aquariums aside, consider these 5 ethical options instead.

Zoos and aquariums may have rocked your imagination and left you fond childhood memories. But now, far from the first innocent moments of life, you understand that these tourist places have nothing ethical and beneficial for animals. Torn from their natural environment (sometimes violently), cut off from their natural instincts, alienated from their peers: the life of animals in captivity is far from fulfilling.

However, there is no need to give up on your love of animals and your desire to approach them. Fortunately, there are several responsible alternatives to zoos and aquariums. We have listed some of them in this article. For adults and children alike, these organizations allow them to observe and get involved with wildlife, while respecting the living.

However, it is important to clarify that no solution is perfect. Each of the organizations selected, in France or abroad, will have to be the subject of scrupulous research on your part in order to verify their good faith.

Why boycott zoos and aquariums?

Terrestrial and marine animals introduced into zoos, circuses and aquariums are often brutally torn from their natural environment. This traumatic and dangerous extraction takes different forms. For example, certain rare fish exposed to human beings are captured thanks to a toxic product that puts them to sleep and leaves after-effects.

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Andywak

In addition to being diverted from their natural habitat, certain species (cats, dolphins, elephants, etc.) are sometimes trained with violent methods in order to perform entertaining tricks for visitors. When it comes to space, animals in captivity find themselves with much less space to move around. They can no longer indulge in the most basic and instinctive activities.

In addition, it is clearly the baby animals or the cutest species that attract the public. Thus, the structures that hold the animals do not hesitate to exchange, sell or even kill the aging residents. Finally, do you know zoochosis? A mental illness developed by some animals in captivity. It causes a feeling of frustration and boredom and the appearance of depressive symptoms.

The animal victims can then adopt aggressive, regressive or even self-destructive behavior. These are all the reasons that push us today to present to you the refuges, sanctuaries or even natural reserves which reconcile your pleasure with that of the ecosystems.

However, even when choosing local sanctuaries or animal shelters that are more or less geographically close, do plenty of research. Make sure that the structure legitimately rescues animal species, does not breed them or offer activities for profit. Check:

  • Accreditations
  • Visiting hours (a reduced capacity is a good sign)
  • The organization’s social networks
  • The condition of living spaces and facilities
  • The activities offered (petting a feline or climbing on the back of an elephant is not natural)
  • The degree of stimulation offered to residents
  • The skills and experience of the recruited volunteers
  • The animal acquisition system

Nature reserves and national/regional parks

A pair of binoculars in hand, accompanied by a local guide, enter a nature reserve in search of rare and endemic animals. A nature reserve, national or regional, has the mission of protecting all living things and exceptional or threatened ecosystems.

Fauna and flora, soil, water, minerals and fossils, on land, at sea or even buried under our feet: everyone’s balance matters. Taking care of fragile and precious universes requires solid knowledge and strong commitments. The nature reserves thus offer permanent restoration and maintenance work, environmental awareness programs and monitoring of natural areas by a dedicated police force.

nature reserve

Photo credit: Jesus Noguera photography

Many of the world’s finest national and regional parks are found in Africa, including the must-see serengeti national parks in Tanzania and Kruger in South Africa. In the top, there are also the parks of Wyoming in the USA (like those of Grand Teton and Yellowstone), the chitwan national park in Nepal or that of Jim Corbett in India.

Rest assured, France is not to be outdone with its dozen nature reserves including those of Vanoise, Pyrenees, Ecrins, Calanques and Overseas. the Mercantour national parkcentered on the protection of the wolf, and the Cevennes national parka biosphere reserve by UNESCO, are among the best students in the world.

Animal sanctuaries

Animal sanctuaries are probably the biggest counter to zoos. These fervent defenders of the animal cause and the deep connection with nature invite visitors to interact and understand species in a peaceful and natural setting.

In France, we recommend the Aiseirigh sanctuary, the Arche refuge, the AVA association or the Co&xister sanctuary, which are particularly renowned. To quench your thirst for distant travels, why not head for Africa or the United States?


Photo credit: Shutterstock – Sourabh Bharti

For example, the SanWild Wildlife Sanctuary is a wildlife rehabilitation center and nature reserve spread over 6,000 hectares in South Africa. While the reserve first houses and protects local wildlife, today it is home to many wild animals rescued from poachers: giraffes, elephants, impalas, zebras, blue wildebeests, rhinos, hippos and more. The sanctuary is entirely designed to accommodate vegans.

There is also the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado, USA. This huge sanctuary opens its doors to animals that have been rescued and reintroduced into huge natural areas in order to heal. Visitors admire lions, tigers, bears, wolves, hair, lynx, etc. from an elevated walkway that crosses the estate. Many of the animals come from zoos, circuses and amusement parks that mistreat captive species.

The farms


Photo credit: Shutterstock – Alliance Images

Farms are an integral part of the collective imagination. How many country stables are at the heart of childhood stories or films that are good to watch under the duvet… But instead of reading them or seeing them on a screen, why not come and live on the farm for real? ?

Today, many farms are opening their doors and creating a great alternative to circuses and zoos. Most of them offer fun and memorable activities: bottle-feeding small sheep, milking cows, making goat cheese, etc. In France, there are many platforms specializing in holidays on the farm, in gîtes or campsites, at the heart of the farm.

  • Oh damn
  • Welcome to the farm
  • Gîtes de France
  • Home Farmer

In addition to putting your hands in the dough and stepping into the shoes of a farmer, this bucolic stay allows you to offer a small additional income to committed producers and breeders.

And if you want to test the farm across borders, why not in the USA? Go to the north of New York where the mythical Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary is located. It welcomes animals that have survived mistreatment in farms, slaughterhouses or animal markets.

Cows, pigs, goats and even chickens are cared for in a specially designed hospital. This sanctuary offers educational visits to school children and shows us that farm animals are just as affectionate and cute as the dogs and cats that invade our social networks.

Health centers and shelters

Care centers and shelters are alternative and ethical places where the visitor is really useful. The animals taken in are generally weak and in great need of love. To get involved on a daily basis, all you have to do is find a shelter near you and, why not, take charge of a few hours of walking or playing with countless cats, dogs and other surprising species. While traveling, you will also have the opportunity to find incredible care structures on your way. Here are a few.

In France :

  • The Maison des Loups, in Orlu, which works for the conservation of wolves and offers visitors the possibility of approaching them via observation towers perfectly inserted into their natural habitat.
  • The Rocamadour Monkey Forest which allows the conservation and freedom of Barbary macaques.
  • The ParcOurs de Borce which welcomes mountain animals, such as bears, injured, mistreated or threatened by environmental problems.

Asia is well known for its elephants. However, few encounters with pachyderms are ethical. These animals are among the most exploited and abused in the world. Fortunately, some centers allow visitors to meet these majestic animals with total respect for their well-being.

monkey forest

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Emre Ucarer

Among these places is the Elephant Nature Park, Thailand. This is a rescue center located in Chiang Mai province. Its founder, “the man who whispers in the ear of elephants” has been fighting since 1996 against the mistreatment and exploitation of animals. On the spot, you will be able to approach the animals completely free in their natural environment. You can also feed them and participate in the daily mud bath.

The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Australia is the largest and oldest koala care center in the world. The refuge also collects kangaroos, reptiles and injured birds. At Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, visitors can approach snakes, feed kangaroos and cuddle koalas. They can also improvise as “one day caretaker” and take on the role of a koala keeper.

Aldabra giant tortoises are endemic reptiles of the Seychelles. They are protected, in particular, by the L’Union estate in La Digue, which is home to at least twenty adult giant tortoises. The place also has a small nursery where the baby turtles grow up and evolve in complete safety. Visitors can hang out with the turtles or feed them large green leaves.

Natural environments

forest animal

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Milan Zygmunt

The most authentic and respectful way of observing animals remains in their natural environment, with total respect for their environment and their lifestyle. For that, you don’t need much: a walk in the forest or in the open sea aboard a soft boat or during a snorkeling session. Add to that a little calm and patience and the magic will work.

Few feelings are as wonderful as those experienced when, around a bend, you come across wild reindeer or, behind a coral reef, the silhouette of a sea turtle. All over the world you will find hundreds of responsible excursions and visits alongside expert and committed naturalists.

Depending on where you want to be, you can observe rare birds in Costa Rica, search for the Big Five in Africa, meet llamas in the Andean countries, admire whales, sperm whales and seals in the St. Lawrence in Canada, swim with the Menta rays in Fiji or contemplate the great apes in Bora Bora. All of this, like lucky, humble and invisible spectators.

In general, these observation excursions (at sea and on land) must ensure that tourists do not get too close and do not touch the animals. In addition, the latter must not provide any food.
Finally, prefer organizations with a limit on the number of departures.

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