A macaque monkey performs at Mae Rim Monkey School, in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The Dark Truth Behind Wildlife Tourism

6 Aug 2019 OUTDOORS
A macaque monkey performs at Mae Rim Monkey School, in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Featuring: Kirsten Luce

Presented by

National Geographic


Curated by

Kathy Moran, Senior Editor, Natural History

Animal suffering underpins many wildlife encounters around the world. Social media is driving new demand from people who love animals and want to ride elephants, watch dolphin shows, and pose with tigers. Influencers—who post photos from exotic locations for their legions of Instagram followers—are drawing more and more tourists to these encounters. But most travelers don’t know that their interactions often involve animal abuse.

In a sweeping investigation of this global industry, writer Natasha Daly and photographer Kirsten Luce went behind the scenes of wildlife tourism in Thailand, Russia, the Amazon, and the United States, revealing the quiet agony many animals endure in the name of entertainment.


Kirsten Luce is a photojournalist based in New York City. She studied art, anthropology, and journalism at the University of Georgia, in the United States, and the Universidad de Colima, in Mexico. Her work has been published by National Geographic, The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, New York Magazine, Bloomberg Businessweek, TIME, Harper’s Magazine, The Marshall Project, ProPublica, and others.

Luce received the Getty Images David Laidler Memorial Award Grant for Editorial Photography in 2016, and was named a finalist for a National Magazine Award in 2015. Her photography has been exhibited at the U.S. Senate, the National Gallery of Canada, Visa pour l’Image in France, and several other festivals and galleries.


Established in 1888, National Geographic is a trusted print and digital publication offering stories that illuminate, inspire, and reveal. Our mission is to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of cultures, the sciences, and the natural world. We advance that mission by creating visually stunning, richly reported photojournalism, and distinguished, impartial coverage of the globe’s most pressing issues.

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