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Azzedine Downes, IFAW Executive Vice President for International OperationsThis is a guest post by Azzedine T. Downes, President and CEO of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). IFAW has projects in more than 40 countries worldwide providing hands-on assistance to animals in need while advocating to save populations from cruelty and depletion.

elephants IFAW responsible tourism
image source: IFAW official Facebook page

When you go on vacation, you know the first thing the folks at home will ask you when you get back is, “What did you bring me?”

Everyone loves a souvenir but when you’re ready to put down your dollars, euros, shillings or other currency, think twice about what you’re buying.

Avoid souvenirs made from ivory, exotic reptiles, turtle shells, tigers and other threatened species and exotic trees, which all need our protection. Don’t encourage the sale of wildlife products with your money.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has five tips all thoughtful tourists should remember on their adventures to exotic destinations:

1. Support the local economy

Buy handicrafts made in the community, visit animal sanctuaries and wildlife rehabilitation centers and donate to local projects that protect habitats and biodiversity. Buying wildlife souvenirs made from rare or exotic species only enriches poachers and unscrupulous middlemen.

2. Think about animal welfare

Refuse to participate in activities that are cruel or stressful to animals such as hunting, sitting for pictures with tiger cubs and other wild animals, attending animal circuses or bullfights or riding sick, over-worked or badly treated horses, donkeys, elephants or camels.

3. Plan your meals

Choose wisely before you order in a restaurant. Cross off your menu meals that include whale meat, turtle eggs, bushmeat (such as elephant or gorilla), shark fins, bird’s nests, reptiles and exotic animals. Certain dishes promoted as local delicacies come from threatened animals and their survival depends on your eating sensibly.

4. Choose ecotourism

This year, why not take a socially responsible trip? More and more travelers are choosing ecotourism as the way to go. It’s a form of tourism that happens on a small scale and in a way that respects the biodiversity and ecosystems in the areas you visit. Also, look for hotels or lodges that employ local people, use local food and contribute to the local community. The resort should also have minimal environmental impact and use water and other precious resources wisely.

5. Just say “No” to ivory

When you’re on holiday and someone tries to sell you a carving, bracelet or other trinket made from ivory, talk about it with your tour guide, hotel manager, tourist board operator and your fellow travelers. You might even decide to call the local police. Remember, elephants are being killed for their ivory, and buying, selling or transporting ivory is illegal or highly restricted in more than 175 countries, according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, an agreement among governments.

IFAW has long recognized the importance of educating the traveling public to reduce demand for illegal wildlife. We’ve undertaken consumer awareness and education campaigns across the globe. Help the cause by taking IFAW’s pledge not to buy souvenirs made from wildlife.

How do you practice responsible tourism?

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