Animal welfare experts and advocates consider that some of New Zealand's wildlife tourism encounters are unethical and provide poor experiences for the animals; some do not meet the industry sector body's standards.
Education of the public is needed so they can make informed, ethical choices in animal encounters and some operators need to improve, or in some cases, stop certain activities.
Many zoological facilities in Aotearoa New Zealand are accredited through the Zoo and Aquarium Association Australasia (ZAA) which considers the welfare of their animals using the Five Domains of Animal Welfare.
VAWA was really concerned to see footage of lion cubs at Paradise Valley Springs (PVS) being patted, tail pulled and surrounded by large numbers of people even when they were sleeping. Cub patting is a long-standing practise at the facility, despite the practise not meeting recognised international, nor New Zealand's own, standards.
Paradise Valley Springs Wildlife Park is not part of the ZAA.
VAWA spoke to Stuff about PVS, and RNZ's The Detail ran a story (The Dark Twists and Crazy Turns of Whangarei's Big Cat Park) on Kamo Wildlife Park about which VAWA also has significant concerns (read here).
Animal suffering can result from poorly managed zoological facilities and wildlife tourism ventures - how people and the animals interact is an important aspect of overall welfare.
Allowing activities such as lion cub patting in New Zealand where it is generally thought that animal welfare laws are strong, means members of the public are led to believe the welfare of the animal involved is acceptable, despite evidence to the contrary.
Wildlife tourism needs to operate above Aotearoa’s laws which currently allow for unacceptable encounter. New Zealand should demonstrate international leadership in wildlife tourism which is important in protecting Aotearoa’s reputation as animal care leaders.