Interactions with all infant wildlife, walking with predators or elephants, interacting with predators and the riding of wild animals are no longer acceptable practices for tourists to tour operator members of SATSA. (IMPORTANT: As pointed out by Captured in Africa’s Paul Tully – “Please note that South Africa is not banning interactions. SATSA are not a governing body. They are applying these guidelines to their tour operator members – whom do not need to comply.”)

The SATSA guidelines, the result of a year-long research process, is aimed at helping operators, product owners and tourists to make ethical choices.

Wildlife tourism is the bedrock of South Africa’s tourism industry. However, not all wildlife experiences involve animals in the wild.

In recent years, many tourists have realised that captive attractions or activities involving wild animals are unacceptable, especially if they result in poor welfare and treatment with forced activities contrary to their natural behaviour.

As a result, new guidelines containing strict disqualifying criteria are applicable for the following:

Performing animals (all types of animals, including elephants, predators, primates, birds etc.)

In order to perform in a public show or display, the animal would have undergone training of some form. Training techniques employed frequently involve corporal punishment, tethering and/or food deprivation. This may be physically and mentally damaging to the animals involved and does not consider the best interests of the individual animal. The research also found that there is no educational or conservation value in watching animals perform unnaturally.

Tactile interactions with all infant wild animals

Wild animals are naturally fearful of humans and any tactile interaction between an infant wild animal, such as a lion cub, and a human is considered unnatural. Tourists touching or petting of a wild infant animal, requires the infant be removed from its mother. This is extremely stressful and unnatural for both the mother and the infant. Both are negatively affected by the activity.

Tactile interactions with predators or cetaceans (any interaction with land predators or aquatic mammals)

Predators are dangerous animals that can inflict serious damage to humans, whom they naturally view as prey. In order for predators (lions and cheetahs) and cetaceans (orcas and dolphins) to be touched, they would need to be trained and handled, sometimes using harmful and negative techniques. Being in captivity interferes drastically with their natural behaviour.

Walking with predators or elephants

Elephants and predators would need to be trained to walk alongside humans. As above, the training and handling techniques employed for them to do are frequently harmful to the animal.

Riding of animals (including elephants, ostriches etc.)

For any wild animal, having a human ride or sit on it, is contrary to their natural behaviour. In many cases, the animal would need to be trained to accept humans on their backs. The animals do not have freedom of choice to be involved in the activity, with animals often being forced to accept humans on their backs.

Additionally, the guidelines warn operators and tourists against facilities that may be involved in any illegal trade, trading in body parts, canned hunting, breeding, misleading advertising and any lack of transparency.

The SATSA guide and toolkit to what is and isn’t acceptable may be found on the SATSA website:

This article appeared in Travel Africa Magazine January-March 2020 edition #89

Source:, republished here with African Elephant Journal

UPDATE: SATSA issued a statement on Wed 29 Jan, saying: “Media reports suggesting that SATSA plans to implement a blanket ban on animal interactions as of July 2020 are erroneous. Rather, the animal interaction guidelines that were released by SATSA in October 2019, will continue to remain voluntary until such time as the association’s members vote differently.”