New WildChoices list helps tourists choose ethical wildlife facilities

Posted on 28 March 2022 By Lauren Dold

The newly launched WildChoices tool assists the tourism industry and visitors to make informed, ethical choices about captive wildlife attractions and activities in South Africa. 

Credit: Louise de Waal

WildChoices defines captive wildlife facilities as ‘facilities that keep wild animals in a human-made enclosure that is of insufficient size for the management of self-sustaining populations of the species and designed to hold the animals in a manner that prevents them from escaping, and facilitates intensive human intervention or manipulation in the provision of food and/or water, artificial housing and/or healthcare.’

WildChoices applies the SATSA Captive Wildlife Attractions & Activities Guidelines and Decision Tool, published in 2019, to assess captive wildlife tourism facilities based on publicly available information about their attractions and activities. The tool, a six-step decision tree, allows visitors to arrive at one of three outcomes: ‘Support’, ‘Support with Caution’ or ‘Avoid’.

Questions include finding out whether a facility breeds, trades, or has performing animals, and whether tactile interactions (eg cub-petting) is allowed. Any facility that allows walking with predators, the feeding of animals or the riding of animals such as elephants, should be avoided.

‘We were determined to take the publication of the SATSA Guidelines and Decision Tool one step further, by identifying and then assessing 219 captive wildlife facilities in South Africa,’ says Gavin Reynolds, who founded WildChoices along with Brett Mitchell.


Of the 219 facilities surveyed, 139 should be avoided while 44 should be supported with caution. That leaves only 36 of 219 facilities that should be supported in South Africa. 

130 of these facilities house captive big cats, 76% of which fall into the ‘Avoid’ category.

Broken down province by province, the Western Cape has the most captive wildlife facilities at 52, only 15 of which should be supported. Following that was the Free State with a total of 45 facilities, only four of which passed SATSA’s criteria.

The assessment outcomes are sorted into an interactive table containing the name of the facility, province, assessment result, and the answers to the decision tree questions.

A ‘passion project’ by Reynolds and Mitchell, the launch of WildChoices followed months of research to identify and then assess captive wildlife facilities across South Africa. Their next step is to gain funding to enable actual physical site visits to the assessed facilities to compare and contrast the publicly available and online information with in-situ realities and truths. Further, WildChoices will keep on top of new information that enters the public realm to keep the list of facilities and assessment results current.

For more information, visit

Find the full list of facilities here.


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