ArticlePDF Available


This paper traces the relationships between neoliberalism, tourism and nature. It argues that the dynamics of global tourism reveal an underlying (neoliberal) world order that draws specific places and animals into the world economy. In order to explore these debates further, this paper uses the recent development of interactive tourist experiences with trained elephants in Botswana, Southern Africa. This paper focuses on how those experiences are produced. In so doing, it tackles how nature is entrained, reconfigured and recreated to produce tourist experiences; it highlights how nature, tourism and neoliberalism are linked and with what effects, especially for the elephants themselves. This is an important but under-researched area in tourism studies.
This article appeared in a journal published by Elsevier. The attached
copy is furnished to the author for internal non-commercial research
and education use, including for instruction at the authors institution
and sharing with colleagues.
Other uses, including reproduction and distribution, or selling or
licensing copies, or posting to personal, institutional or third party
websites are prohibited.
In most cases authors are permitted to post their version of the
article (e.g. in Word or Tex form) to their personal website or
institutional repository. Authors requiring further information
regarding Elsevier’s archiving and manuscript policies are
encouraged to visit:
Author's personal copy
Interactive elephants: Nature, tourism and neoliberalism
Rosaleen Duffy
Department of Politics, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, United Kingdom
article info
Article history:
Received 18 September 2012
Revised 21 January 2013
Accepted 9 September 2013
Elephant riding
Safari tourism
This paper traces the relationships between neoliberalism, tourism
and nature. It argues that the dynamics of global tourism reveal an
underlying (neoliberal) world order that draws specific places and
animals into the world economy. In order to explore these debates
further, this paper uses the recent development of interactive tour-
ist experiences with trained elephants in Botswana, Southern
Africa. This paper focuses on how those experiences are produced.
In so doing, it tackles how nature is entrained, reconfigured and
recreated to produce tourist experiences; it highlights how nature,
tourism and neoliberalism are linked and with what effects, espe-
cially for the elephants themselves. This is an important but under-
researched area in tourism studies.
Ó2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
This paper traces the dynamics between tourism, nature and neoliberalism and it does so via an
examination of elephant back tourism in Southern Africa. I argue that the dynamics of global tourism
reveal an underlying (neoliberal) world order which draws animals and places into the world econ-
omy in particular ways. The recent developments in safari tourism in Sub-Saharan Africa reveal the
interactions between neoliberalism, tourism and nature. Nature has been targeted, commodified
and opened up, via global tourism, to the logics of neoliberalism. This has produced new dynamics
and challenges, it is clear that the effects are complex and uneven, and they are not entirely negative
for people who work with elephants, or for the elephants themselves. As Castree argues the neoliber-
alisation of nature is, by definition, a socioecological project and its effects are at once societal and
biophysical. However the effects are judged, the outcomes are not trivial, at certain scales, specific
social actors and/or the biophysical world enjoy or suffer the consequences, and the consequences
are far from subtle (Castree 2008a, p. 166).
0160-7383/$ - see front matter Ó2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Corresponding author. Address: Department of Development Studies, SOAS, University of London, Thornhaugh Street,
Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG, United Kingdom. Tel.: +44 (0)20 7637 2388.
E-mail address:
Annals of Tourism Research 44 (2014) 88–101
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Annals of Tourism Research
journal homepage:
Author's personal copy
While there is a lively and vibrant debate on how tourism might contribute to economic development
in the South (for example see Sharpley and Telfer (eds.), 2002), there has been surprisingly little attention
to the specific inter-relationships between tourism and neoliberalism. There have been some recent crit-
ical studies by Fletcher (2011), West and Carrier (2004), Schilcher (2007), Lacher and Nepal (2010) and
Neves (2010) who do explore the entanglements between the industry and the wider global system, and
by Ayikoru, Tribe, and Airey (2009) who analyse the neoliberal ideological underpinnings of tourism
education in the UK (also see Hall, 2010). Similarly, the debate on neoliberalising nature is on-going in
geography, but is not a central concern for tourism studies (see Bakker, 2010; Bakker, 2005; Castree,
2009, 2008a, 2008b, 2003; Heynen et al., 2007; Mansfield, 2004; McCarthy & Prudham, 2004, pp. 275–
277; Peck & Theodore, 2007). The purpose of this paper is to draw these themes together to refine our
understanding of the inter-linkages between tourism, neoliberalism and nature.
In order to develop these debates, this paper examines the recent rise in interactive experiences
with trained elephants in Southern Africa, especially Botswana. Tourist interactions with trained ele-
phants are marketed as ‘back to nature’ experiences and as a way of getting closer to wildlife. This new
twist in the safari industry sheds light on the ways that nature is reconfigured, shaped and commod-
ified by tourism as a driver of neoliberalism. Firstly, I outline the profile of tourism in Botswana; sec-
ondly, I explain the relationship between tourism and neoliberalism; thirdly I examine the
development of interactive elephants in Southern Africa, especially in Botswana.
Interactive elephants: tourism in Botswana
In this paper, I argue that the growth of the global tourism industry in the last twenty years needs
to be placed in the wider context of neoliberalism. Tourism is one of a number of global dynamics that
allows neoliberalism to travel over time and space; in essence tourism seems to offer a pathway
through the contradiction between the drive for continual growth and finite natural resources (Fletch-
er, 2011; O’Connor, 1988).
However, the idea that everything is connected in ecosystems presents a problem for neoliberal-
ism; in order to bring conservation into the orbit of capitalism, we need to expose and categorise
the various ecosystemic threads and linkages so that they can be subjected to further separation,
marketization, and alienation. This process of separation allows nature to be ‘flattened and deadened’
in to abstract objects, primed for commodity capture to create economic value (Büscher, Sullivan,
Neves, Igoe, & Brockington, 2012, pp. 8–23). Furthermore, it allows neoliberalism to turn the environ-
mental crises it has created into new commodities, as sources of accumulation (Büscher et al., 2012;
Fletcher, 2011, p. 451; West & Carrier, 2004, pp. 23–24). Finally, neoliberalism has made global travel
easier via increased wealth in some areas of the world, the development of international travel net-
works and the proliferation of tour operators opening up the South to tourism, as a core industry
for (neoliberal) economic development.
It is important to offer a nuanced view of tourism as neoliberalism on the ground, drawing out its
complexities and unevenness (Brenner & Theodore, 2002; Castree, 2008b). Brenner and Theodore
(2002) note that there is a tendency to assume that neoliberalism is hegemonic, and therefore it is as-
cribed with greater powers and coherence than it really has (also see Peck & Tickell, 2002; Walker &
Cooper, 2011; Mirowski and Plehwe (eds), 2009). If we characterise neoliberalism as a hegemonic sys-
tem, we can be tempted to (erroneously) assume that its effects are always negative. A more nuanced
analysis of neoliberalism, in the form of tourism, also reminds us that the impacts and outcomes are
not unremittingly negative (Castree 2008b, p. 166). This paper specifically tackles how neoliberalism
is operationalized on the ground, in this case in the production of safari tourism experiences to draw
out its effects for captive elephants and for the people who work with them.
Research methods
Interactive experiences with elephants in Botswana provide a very useful example of the inter-rela-
tionships between nature, tourism and neoliberalism. The development of luxury safari tourism, espe-
cially in the Okavango Delta reveals how nature is reconfigured to create new products for global
R. Duffy / Annals of Tourism Research 44 (2014) 88–101 89
Author's personal copy
consumption. This paper is based on a total of three months fieldwork in Botswana during 2008/9. It
was part of a wider programme of research comparing elephant riding practices in Thailand and
Botswana, and the study involved 75 interviews in Kasane, Maun and Gaborone (Botswana) and in
Bangkok and Chiang Mai (Thailand). Kasane, Maun and Chiang Mai are the main areas for elephant
riding in each country. Undertaking research in the capital cities of Gaborone and Bangkok
allowed us to access the relevant wildlife, conservation and tourism authorities associated with each
Interviewees in Botswana were drawn from a wide range of stakeholders, including wildlife
NGOs, tour operators, lodge and camp owners and tourist guides. We used standard snowballing
techniques to generate lists of potential interviewees, this of course meant that the interviewees
were a ‘self-selecting’ list since we were reliant on representatives of relevant organizations agree-
ing to be interviewed. That said, only one organization in Botswana declined an interview, and opted
for a short telephone conversation instead. The wider research project provided an important con-
text for the fieldwork in Botswana and allowed comparisons to be drawn with the development of
elephant riding for tourism in Asia (see Duffy & Moore, 2010). A number of the interviews have been
anonymised to protect the identities of participants because they offered criticisms of the industry
they were employed in, and revealing their identity exposes them to risks of reprisals. The study
used qualitative semi structured interviewing and documentary analysis as the most appropriate
and effective means of understanding the elephant riding industry. The interviews and observations
were supported by analysis of documentary evidence from NGOs, Government agencies and tour
The profile of tourism in Botswana
Tourism is a critical sector in Botswana because it is one of the largest income earners for the coun-
try (interview with representative of the Department of Tourism). According to the World Travel and
Tourism Council (WTTC) the total contribution of travel and tourism to Gross Domestic Product was
US$ 1,048.50 million (BWP8,150.2mn, 6.5% of GDP) in 2011, and the WTTC estimates that this will rise
by 5.6% pa to US$ 1,961.91 million (BWP15,250.1mn) in 2022; further, in 2011 travel and tourism di-
rectly supported 18,500 jobs (3.1% of total employment), which WTTC estimates will rise by 3.2% pa to
28,000 jobs (3.6% of total employment) in 2022 (WTTC, 2012, p. 1).
The importance of the tourism industry to national economic development led the Government of
Botswana to commission a Botswana Tourism Development Plan, funded by the European Union in
2000 (Government of Botswana, 2002, p. ii). The industry is promoted at international tourism fairs,
such as the World Travel Market and the Japanese Association of Wild Travel Market. The major mar-
kets are South Africa, the US and Europe (particularly Germany and the UK), and the Department of
Tourism hopes to develop a more robust market in Asia, especially Japan (interview with representa-
tive of the Department of Tourism).
The Botswana ‘brand’ revolves primarily around wildlife and wilderness, with some promotion of
cultural and heritage tourism, plus a more recent interest in the potential for tours to link with the
success of the Number 1 Ladies Detective agency book series. (pers comm, academic researcher,
Botswana; see Botswana Tourism Board, Undated); Mbaiwa (2008) and Keitumetse (2009). For exam-
ple, the Botswana Tourism Board states
‘Parks and reserves have been established for the protection of the wildlife. Here, in the wilderness
of Botswana, it is you who are the intruder and your presence is a privilege’. (Botswana Tourism
Board, Undated b)
Furthermore, the National Ecotourism Strategy for Botswana states:
‘Wildlife and—to a lesser extent—wilderness, are far and away Botswana’s biggest holiday tourism
draws. This is reflected in visitor numbers to the country’s national parks, which increased from
76,742 in 1995 to 125,088 in 1997: a rise of 63%. The great majority of these are visits to parks
in the north of the country.’(Government of Botswana, 2002, p. 2)
90 R. Duffy / Annals of Tourism Research 44 (2014) 88–101
Author's personal copy
Botswana has deliberately pursued a policy of high end/low impact safari tourism which relies on
the luxury travel market. This is based on the idea that Botswana will derive maximum revenue from
minimal disruption to the environment. However, the development of the wildlife and wilderness
brand in Botswana has not been unproblematic. In the case of upscale luxury safari tourism industry
in Botswana, Mbaiwa notes that it produces similar problems to enclave tourism in the Caribbean and
elsewhere; namely that the main profits go to foreign companies, there is little benefit to local com-
munities and the lodges/safari concessions are highly exclusive and potentially exclusionary (Mbaiwa,
2004). Even the National Ecotourism Strategy notes the losses to the national economy via payments
to external tour operators and providers of other goods and services to the tourism industry (Govern-
ment of Botswana, 2002, p. 1).
Despite this clear focus on promoting wildlife and wilderness, the development of interactive expe-
riences with trained elephants is a new and interesting direction. It is one small, but growing, part of
the Southern African tourism industry; it relies on development of close interactions with elephants,
including elephant riding and walking with elephants. Historically these experiences are not part of
the standard safari package, but have become a high end/luxury tourism product in the last decade,
and can now be found in South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Elephant rides cost upwards
of US$150 per person per hour. In Botswana close interactions with elephants are sold as part of an
accommodation package in fly-in luxury camps costing between US$500 and US$2000 per night, (Liv-
ing With Elephants, Undated).
Interactions with elephants are also offered as a single, short experience during a wider safari trip:
it is possible for tourists to Botswana to incorporate elephant trekking as part of a day trip to Victoria
Falls on the Zambian and Zimbabwean side of the border (African Odyssey Programme of Tourist
Activities, Chobe Marina Lodge, Kasane; also see Safari Par Excellence, Undated a). The case of inter-
active elephant safaris in Botswana adds to our comprehension of how tourism drives forward the log-
ics of neoliberalism by targeting and opening up new frontiers in nature. This use of a specific case
means the neat lines and models generated via theoretical debates can be traced, refined, critiqued
and challenged (Bakker, 2009; Castree, 2008b). This is the subject of the next section.
Tourism, neoliberalism and nature: conceptual context and debate
In this paper I characterise neoliberalism as a ‘nebuleuse’ of ideas, institutions and organisations
that create conditions favourable to neoliberalism, so that it appears as natural, neutral and as if there
is no alternative (see Cox 1996; Gill 1998; Overbeek, 1993). During the past 20 years we have seen the
global expansion of neoliberalism, including the roll back of states coupled with a roll forward of new
forms of regulation to facilitate private interests, the expansion of market based mechanisms to new
natural resources such as water and genetic material, as well as the privatisation of public services
(Brand & Gorg, 2008; Castree, 2008a; Cox, 1996; McCarthy & Prudham, 2004, pp. 275–277; Harvey
2005; Heynen & Robbins, 2005; Heynen et al., 2007; Peck & Theodore, 2007; Peck & Tickell, 2002;
Overbeek, 1993). However, one of the key contributions of this paper is to offer a more nuanced
and differentiated view of it via an analysis of an empirical case. This allows us to understand how
neoliberalism transforms nature into an expanding range of new commodities (see Neves, 2010). In
this paper I am concerned with how neoliberalism, in the guise of tourism, produces globally market-
able commodities in the form of interactive experiences with trained elephants.
Defining neoliberalism itself and identifying what is especially ‘neoliberal’ about safaris with
trained elephants is no easy task. In order to do this I examine how nature-based tourism recreates
and redefines nature in ways that make it more compatible with the logics of neoliberalism. Debates
about the precise nature of neoliberalism are already well covered in the literature, and there is a
growing body of critical scholarship on the neoliberalisation of nature, which aims to understand
why the natural world is such an important target (see Bakker, 2005; Bakker, 2010; Castree, 2009,
2008a, 2008b, 2003). The connections between neoliberalism, nature and tourism are deeply, if not
inextricably interwoven but they are not a major focus of research in tourism studies.
Büscher (2010) suggests that neoliberalism has produced ‘derivative nature’ in the sense that the
value of nature must be brought into the realm of commodities and priced in monetary terms
R. Duffy / Annals of Tourism Research 44 (2014) 88–101 91
Author's personal copy
(Büscher, 2010, p. 271). In Büscher’s terms, the constructed and the real remain closely tied, so that
derivatives allow capitalism to become increasingly self-referential and to create value out of itself,
further fuelling bubble of neoliberalism (Büscher, 2010, p. 272; also see Büscher et al., 2012; Fletcher,
2011, pp. 449–451). As such, the capitalisation of nature has become a central characteristic of current
capitalism (Zeller, 2008, p. 91). As Büscher et al. suggest, environmental initiatives increasingly entrain
nature to capitalism, while creating more possibilities for capitalist expansion—nature (paradoxically)
seems to have become the ‘friend of capitalism’ (Büscher et al. 2012, p. 7; also see Brockington and
Duffy, 2010). It is important to note that capitalism is inherently expansionist, and strives to bring
more and more facets of life into its orbit, including nature (Büscher et al. 2012, p. 8), and tourism
is a critically important means by which this is achieved.
One of the main processes through which nature can be reconfigured through tourism is via com-
modification. This involves the creation of economic value from landscapes, animals and experiences.
One of the core justifications for nature-based tourism is that nature can be conserved or saved be-
cause of its ‘market value’, and hence it can be commodified (see Büscher et al. 2012, pp. 12–23;
Fletcher, 2010; McAfee, 1999, 2012; Neves, 2010; West & Carrier, 2004).
In the arena of tourism, nature is produced, reproduced and redesigned as a tourist attraction. In
the process it is drawn in to the global tourism marketplace as a product to be consumed and to make
profit (see Bianchi, 2004; Neves, 2010; Reid, 2003; West & Carrier, 2004, pp. 2–6). The tourism indus-
try relies on designing and creating new commodities that clients will pay to see or experience; and
his includes the production of close encounters with animals.
Bulbeck presents an excellent analysis of the production of close encounters with dolphins at Mon-
key Mia in Western Australia; her study indicates the ways nature, in the form of ‘wild’ dolphins are
entrained’ (in Büscher’s et al. (2012) terms) and reconfigured to create products to sell as interactive
tourist experiences. The dolphins are encouraged to visit the bay via strategies of feeding and interac-
tion with tourists in the long term, but the problems associated with producing such interactions,
including poor health and shortened lifespans for dolphins are rendered invisible to tourists (see Bul-
beck, 2004).
Processes of commodification create new ‘products’ which are promoted as a means by which peo-
ple can (quite literally) touch the wild, and they are proliferating across the globe, from diving with
sharks to walking with lions to swimming with seals. Interactive animal tourism has become a critical
niche in nature-based tourism. Neves (2010) argues in her study of whale watching tourism, that most
operators present and market the product they sell as if it were not a commodity and as if it were not
based on capitalist relations amongst different groups of people. In tourism this is evident in the ways
that tour operators and conservation NGOs encourage tourists to seek out spectacular landscapes or
rare wildlife: marketing experiences with nature with the exhortation to ‘see it before it’s too late’
or ‘before everyone else finds out’. The challenges and problems this creates for interactive elephants
are discussed later in this paper.
The expansion of tourism in Sub-Saharan Africa is interlinked with the global extension of neolib-
eralism. Global tourism flows rapidly increased in response to greater prosperity and social and eco-
nomic shifts in the industrialised world, which allowed larger numbers of people to engage in overseas
travel; and this further developed into a variety of more specialised markets for ethical, responsible or
green travel which reflect the changing holidaying tastes of societies in the North (Butcher, 2003). The
statistics on tourism show how much it has grown, and recent figures suggest that although world
tourism was negatively affected by the global recession, this was short lived and the industry has al-
ready begun to recover (possibly due to the growth of tourism from China and India).
The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) estimates that tourism to Africa increased by 9 per
cent in 2009, and it was the only region to show growth that year, assisted by the worldwide publicity
created by the FIFA World Football Cup hosted by South Africa. Despite the fluctuations in tourism, the
figures for 2010 indicate that global tourism has returned to pre-financial crisis levels. According to
the latest issue of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, international tourist arrivals are estimated
to have grown by 4.5% in the first half of 2011, consolidating the 6.6% increase registered in 2010.
Between January and June of 2011, the total number of arrivals reached 440 million, 19 million more
than in the same period of 2010, and it estimates that there will be 1.6 billion tourist arrivals in 2020
(World Tourism Organisation, 2012).
92 R. Duffy / Annals of Tourism Research 44 (2014) 88–101
Author's personal copy
The growth of tourism in Sub-Saharan Africa means it is a highly attractive option for governments,
the private sector and international organisations as a potential means of delivering economic growth.
The Regional Tourism Organisation for Southern Africa (RETOSA) is a branch of the Southern African
Development Community (SADC) and it promotes tourism as a way to create jobs, boost economies
and alleviate poverty; it also aims to increase in-bound tourism to the region and raise awareness
of the investment opportunities for the private sector (RETOSA, Undated). Equally, the African Travel
and Tourism Association (ATTA) represents the private sector, including tour operators, hoteliers and
transport providers; it views tourism as a way of producing economic development (African Travel
and Tourism Association, Undated).
The development of interactive experiences with elephants should also be seen in the context of
a longer history of commodification of nature in Africa, which intersects with more recent dynamics
of neoliberalism. Exploring these links allows us to examine what is new about interactive
Elephants have been commodified in different ways: as sources of valuable products such as ivory,
skins, meat and hides, and then later as hunting trophies and as key species in photographic tourism.
This process of commodification helped drive global trade from the continent in the pre-colonial era,
and then it supported and funded an age of European imperial expansion, and more recently elephants
have been recreated as central components of a ‘wilderness’ tourist experience (see Adams, 2004;
Brockington, Duffy, & Igoe, 2008, pp. 17–46; MacKenzie, 1988, pp. 19–38).
While more recent conservation initiatives use a more integrated approach, the image of wilder-
ness remains an important underpinning to the safari industry in Africa. Yet, they are manufactured
landscapes, created by a long history of evictions and exclusions of local communities (for further
discussion see Brockington et al., 2008, pp. 17–46; Adams, 2004).
More recently new forms of interactions with nature have developed. These are more explicitly
related to neoliberalism as nature is decontextualised to entrain it to the logics of capitalism. These
include close interactions with animals such as elephant riding safaris, encounters with lions and
riding ostriches (Safari Par Excellence, Undated b; Cango Ostrich, Undated). In many ways the use
of trained animals disrupts the idea that safari tourism is based around stereotypes of wildlife and
wilderness, yet the case of interactive experiences with elephants indicates that these new commod-
ities are presented and marketed as ‘back to nature’ products.
Interactive experiences, especially with trained captive animals disrupt blunt and dichotomous
categorisations of wild versus domestic or wilderness versus produced/manufactured landscapes. This
leads us on to the debate about how to conceptualise and interrogate the role of animals in the links
between tourism, nature and neoliberalism.
I explicitly view nature, in the form of trained elephants, as active participants. This intersects with
recent debates about the complex inter-relationships between human and non-human nature, which
attempt to break free of such binary or dualistic understandings. Lorimer argues, in the case of Asian
trained elephants, that they are companion species par excellence, that humans and elephants have
co-evolved and that mahoutship is the most obvious expression of this (Bates et al., 2007; Bradshaw,
2009; Braun, 2008; Lorimer & Whatmore, 2009; Lorimer, 2010, p. 492; also see Whatmore, 2002;
Lorimer, 2010). As Bakker (2010, p. 718) suggests this helps us to be more sensitive to the pitfalls
of seeing nature as a passive backdrop, or victim of global forces. I will now turn to Southern Africa
to explore how interactive elephant experiences as tourism products reflect contemporary patterns
of neoliberalism.
Elephants, tourism and neoliberalism in Southern Africa
Interactive experiences with trained elephants are a useful example of the connections between
nature, tourism and neoliberalism. This section outlines the profile of interactive elephant safaris in
Botswana, including how they promote their products as ‘back to nature’ experience, divorced from
the global dynamics that make them possible. In Botswana, the luxury safari camps that offer
interactive experiences with elephants are located in the Okavango Delta, which is the centre-piece
of Botswana’s ‘wilderness tourism’ product (Pers comm. academic researcher, Botswana).
R. Duffy / Annals of Tourism Research 44 (2014) 88–101 93
Author's personal copy
Abu Camp is the most expensive luxury resort in the Okavango Delta—costing approximately
US$2000 per night (Abu Camp, Undated). Abu Camp was the first operator to offer elephant back safa-
ris in Southern Africa in the early 1990s. It is now run by a large South African operator, Wilderness
Safaris, promoting itself as a ‘responsible ecotourism and conservation company’. A former manager
and researcher at Seba Camp (a sister camp) commented that tourists show a lot of interest in the ele-
phants and want to know more about the research programmes at Abu Camp, which include work on
releasing captive elephants back in to the wild (as discussed below) (interview with researcher and
former Manager of Seba Camp; pers comment academic researcher, UK; and see Wilderness Safaris,
Undated a).
It is owned by a former animal trainer from America, Randall Moore, who brought the first trained
elephants to the camp in 1990. Moore has hired his elephants out for film, television and advertising.
For example, the camp is named after Abu, the original male elephant which was brought from the US
to South Africa to star in the film, The Power of One. Since then the Abu Camp elephants have appeared
in diverse formats including adverts for Cote d’Or chocolate, and when the Miss World Contest was
held in South Africa the elephants were used as part of the show (Elephant Back Safaris, 2008). Apart
from their media appearances, the elephants are used for safaris, when tourists can ride the elephants
or walk with them whilst viewing wildlife. Abu Camp presents its experiences in the following way:
‘Guests at Abu Camp are invited to become part of the elephant herd during their stay: watching
the evening feeding, sharing the simple joy of a frolicking youngster, and accompanying them
on foot as they move through the bush. These elephant encounters provide unforgettable magical
moments. ’ (Wilderness Safaris, Undated b)
Elephant experiences, rather like the whale watching tours studied by Neves (2010), are presented
as though they are not a commodity or product, instead they are presented as an opportunity for inter-
action, companionship and sharing, akin to the lively and convivial relationships set out by Lorimer
(2010); also see Lorimer, 2007. This scripts out the underlying reality that guests have purchased a
manufactured experience and that they are part of a global industry that makes it possible for them
to ‘share’ in elephant lives. Abu Camp promotes the activity as a way that tourists can feel they are
part of the elephant herd and can get closer to the wildlife because it is somehow more ‘natural’ than
using a vehicle:
‘Whether walking alongside them or seated in large padded saddles mounted behind experienced
elephant-handlers, to join a herd of the largest land mammals on a walk through the bush is to see
Africa from a completely different perspective. Surrounded as you are by the herd, many other ani-
mals allow you to approach closer than ever’. (Abu Camp, Undated)
However, the trained elephants are offered as decontextualised forms of nature: they have been
divorced from the wider context of the ecosystem and been entrained to the logics of global capitalism
to make them commodities. Abu Camp uses elephant riding as their unique selling point; it differs
from other interactive elephant experiences in Botswana. Two other camps, Baines Camp and Stanley’s
Camp offer walking with elephants, but are quite clear that they do not allow or promote elephant
riding. Baines and Stanley’s Camps are exclusively for clients booked through Sanctuary Retreats—a
division of the global safari company Abercrombie and Kent (Sanctuary Retreats, Undated a). The
elephants are owned by Sandi and Doug Groves who run a company, ’Grey Matters’, and an NGO,
‘Living with Elephants’ (LWE) (Living With Elephants, Undated).
LWE was founded in 1999 by Douglas and Sandi Groves with three adopted elephants, Jabu, Them-
bi and Morula. LWE offers walking with elephants as a means of educating tourists about elephant
conservation issues, and each walk lasts approximately four hours which includes information about
the individual working elephant and about elephant management issues in general (interview with
representative of Living with Elephants, Botswana). LWE estimated that 70% of their clients were
American, the remainder were mostly European. Sandi Groves stated that they welcomed the oppor-
tunity to answer comments and criticisms from guests because it provided a chance to explain their
operation and how the elephants were cared for (interview with representative of Living with
Elephants, Botswana). As such, they openly tackle how the interactive experiences are produced
and maintained.
94 R. Duffy / Annals of Tourism Research 44 (2014) 88–101
Author's personal copy
LWE are keen to demonstrate theor commitment to elephant welfare; for example, the elephants
spend all day out ‘in the bush’ but are taken in at night for their own safety. A representative of LWE
argued that it is important that the elephants have a good quality of life and that they would not con-
tinue if the elephants were not well looked after (interview with representative of Living with Ele-
phants, Botswana).
LWE’s mission statement is that it is ‘dedicated to creating harmonious relationships between peo-
ple and elephants. LWE has tried to find ways in which their foster elephants can act as ambassadors
for their wild counterparts’ (Living With Elephants, Undated). This is in line with Neves (2010) argu-
ment that a core claim of ecotourism is that it conserves the environment while contributing to sus-
tainable livelihoods, especially in the South. The key motivation for LWE is to ‘reduce competition
between elephants and human populations in Botswana’ (Living With Elephants, Undated). The cap-
tive elephants are promoted as a method for ensuring conservation of their wild counterparts through
the ‘re-education’ of African communities. During the low season, LWE use their elephants to provide
educational tours for 22 schools in the Okavango Delta area to educate children into having a more
‘positive’ view of elephants (interview with representative of LWE).
Sandi Groves commented that the trips were for 9–12 year olds because they are the most recep-
tive to learning about elephants. The trips are free to Government schools but private schools pay a
small fee. The children also learn about the potential for jobs in the tourism sector while they are ta-
ken on game drives or shown Stanley’s or Baines Camps (interview with representative of LWE). The
use of captive elephants for educational purposes and school trips to the luxury lodges are one way in
which the lodge and tour operators maintain their concession and operator licences. It is a Govern-
ment stipulation that all safari concessions must provide a package of benefits for local communities
(see Mbaiwa, 2004 for further discussion). In this sense the trained elephants perform another role: as
educators for local communities, while also acting as guides and service providers (transport) for
LWE describe the ‘walking with elephants’ experience as elephant centric, underlining the ‘agency’
of the animals themselves (see Lorimer, 2010; Bradshaw, 2009; and Braun, 2008). Tourists are encour-
aged to imagine they see the world through elephant eyes in order to get an experience that is closer
to nature, via touching and interacting with trained elephants:
‘see the wilds of Africa through the eyes of an elephant–a truly uplifting experience that makes a
lasting impression on all who share their time with the elephants’.
(Sanctuary Retreats, Undated b)
The ways elephants are used for interactive experiences with tourists is indicative of the links be-
tween tourism, neoliberalism and nature. Nature is reconfigured as a product for global consumption
but this is not necessarily entirely negative for elephants themselves. Owners and managers of trained
elephants do emphasise the complex inter-linkages with ‘wild herds’, their efforts in wider elephant
conservation and the importance of caring for trained elephants. However, the problems associated
with the wider interactive elephant industry are discussed below.
The production of interactive elephant experiences in Botswana
The problems in this emerging industry in Southern Africa provide a more nuanced understanding
of neoliberalism as it is operationalized on the ground.
It is important to interrogate how interactive experiences with animals are produced in the first
place. This allows us to examine how neoliberalism, has captured, entrained and reconfigured ele-
phants to allow the tourism industry to expand and grow. It allows us to think through the dynamics
of neoliberalism on the ground and how it is operationalized at the micro- scale (see Brenner & The-
odore, 2002). It is important to delve behind the scenes to examine how interactive elephant experi-
ences are created and produced in order to be sold to tourists. We can then lay bare the complex
connections between neoliberalism, tourism and nature more visible, which is an under- researched
area in tourism studies. In essence, in promotional material the interactive trained elephants are al-
most completely divorced from the social and economic processes that produced them in the first
R. Duffy / Annals of Tourism Research 44 (2014) 88–101 95
Author's personal copy
place. There are occasional references to the elephants being rescued from zoos or culls, and to how
they are cared for in their new environments but beyond that there is little information on the how
they are trained and how the interactive experiences are produced and maintained.
Unlike Asia there is little history of domesticating elephants in Africa. Therefore any elephants in-
volved in interactive experiences with tourists are relatively new arrivals to captivity, which raises the
question of how elephants are sourced and reconfigured for interactive experiences. In the wider
Southern African region, the removal of wild elephants for training for the safari industry has been
a major source of concern for international animal welfare organisations. There is a real problem with
taking older elephants from the wild to be trained for riding in the safari industry, especially elephants
that were 8–10 years old because the training is harder on the people and on the elephants, two to
three years olds are easier to train, as are elephants born in captivity.
In Botswana interactive experiences rely on elephants that formerly lived in circuses, zoos and sa-
fari parks, or calves who survived elephant culling operations. These animals cannot easily be returned
to national parks, so supporters argue that training them for work in the tourism industry could im-
prove their fate in the long term. LWE explained that their operations began in this way, as a means of
caring for elephants not suited to release (interview with representative of LWE).
The camps also argue that they are committed to rehabilitating trained elephants so that they can
return to national parks whenever possible. Abu Camp has an active research programme to explore
how trained elephants can be reintegrated into herds in national parks. Between 2002 and 2003 four
males and one female were released, and their progress was compared with that of their wild coun-
terparts (thus far they have adapted very well) (interview with academic researcher, UK). However,
these camps now face a new challenge as their trained elephants begin to reproduce. Abu Camp
has two calves that were born to their trained elephants in 2006 and 2008 (Abu Camp, Undated). This
disrupts their argument that they use elephants that are ‘rescued’ from circuses, safari parks and cull-
ing operations. This contrasts with LWE, their plan is to find a way to retire their three elephants and
they will not be replacing them (interview with representative of LWE). This reveals a complicated
pattern of problems and benefits for elephants involved in the interactive safari industry.
While many NGOs campaign against the development of elephant back safaris in Sub-Saharan Afri-
ca (as discussed below) their owners and trainers argue that they offer a better alternative for former
zoo and circus animals, and that they play a role in educating tourists and local communities about
elephant conservation more broadly. In this sense, they can claim that the effects of neoliberalism
are not unremittingly negative, especially for the elephants themselves.
A further criticism levelled at the elephant riding industry in Botswana is that it is driven by profit.
One interviewee stated there was a perception that you could make ‘big bucks’ from elephant riding,
partly because of the high prices charged by lodges in Botswana. Inexperienced private operators have
been drawn in—and the results were distressed elephants and mahouts who were injured or killed
(anonymised interviewee (a), Botswana). This intersects with Lorimer’s (2010) point that convivial
and companion relationships between elephants and humans are often based on violence and even
deaths. Most of the interactive elephant experiences in Botswana now use Motswana mahouts,
although the initial mahouts came from Asia (especially Sri Lanka) to provide the relevant expertise.
For example the first mahouts in Abu Camp were from Sri Lanka, but the camp now employs locally
trained mahouts (interview with academic researcher, UK).
In Asia it is usual for mahouts to stay with an elephant for several decades. In Botswana since there
is no long term history or culture of mahoutship then the elephant owners tend to hire in and train
mahouts who work with the elephants for a shorter time. Taking on a trained elephant can constitute
a 60 year commitment to a particular animal, which does not fit well with shorter term business inter-
ests (interview with academic researcher, UK; interview with representative of LWE; anonymous
interviewee (b) Botswana).
This has raised concerns that the elephants do not benefit from a long term relationship with a
single mahout, and the elephants can become unsettled and dangerous when mahouts are changed.
One interviewee commented that consistency was very important—that the elephant needed to
know boundaries, discipline, love and care and then they would respond positively to training
and to the mahouts (anonymous interviewee (b), Botswana). Another interviewee, who worked with
trained elephants, stated that they were concerned it would only be a matter of time before a tourist
96 R. Duffy / Annals of Tourism Research 44 (2014) 88–101
Author's personal copy
was killed (anonymous interviewee (b), Botswana). In 2007 International Fund for Animal Welfare
(IFAW) released its report ‘An Overview of the Commercial Use of Elephants in Captivity in South Africa
arguing that a lack of standards and regulation in the elephant-back safari industry in Southern
Africa meant that elephant tourist rides ‘were accidents waiting to happen’ (IFAW, 2006, 2007,
There have already been a number of deaths of mahouts working with elephants in Botswana—one
of the most recent was at Mokolodi wildlife reserve near the capital Gaborone. It has been offering
experiences of walking with elephants to tourists, but in April 2008 the Sri Lankan mahouts who
had been training the elephants were found dead. It is not known how the accident happened (anon-
ymous interviewee (a) Botswana; Elephant News, 2008). In separate incident, at Abu Camp in 2010, an
Australian elephant expert who had previously worked at Taronga and Dubbo zoos was killed in an
accident in the elephant enclosure (The Age, 2010; Sydney Morning Herald, 2010).
IFAW claims that tourists are at risk from badly trained, potentially dangerous elephants. Between
2005 and 2007 at least three handlers were killed, and there was a rise in incidences of injured tourists
(IFAW, 2006, 2007, Undated-a). As discussed above, elephant trainers and mahouts have been injured
and killed in accidents with their animals, but tourists themselves have also been injured in the
emerging elephant riding industry. For example in 2007 a British couple were badly injured and hos-
pitalised in South Africa after an accident on an elephant back safari in Elephant Sanctuary at Hart-
beespoort; they suffered broken legs and pelvis’ after falling as they tried to climb on to the
elephants (The Daily Mail, 2007). It is clear that as elephants are reconfigured and trained for work
in the tourism industry, it can result in injuries and deaths of mahouts, but also injuries to tourists.
This is the darker side of neoliberalism, hidden from view in the marketing and promotion of new
interactive animal experiences, in line with the critique offered by Buscher et al. (2012) that highlights
the ways it stimulates and then conceals contradictions.
IFAW has actively campaigned against elephant back safaris in Southern Africa (IFAW, Undated-a).
Its stated position is that ‘elephant tourism is not responsible tourism, and should not be supported in
any shape or form’, and that it has no conservation value and is cruel and exploitative (IFAW, 2006).
The Southern Africa Director of IFAW, Jason Bell-Leask, has stated that IFAW would like to ban it alto-
gether; it views the industry as cruel, wrong, exploitative and driven by greed. As a result, IFAW de-
votes its energies into developing regulations to prevent further growth in elephant riding and to
ensuring that captive elephants are well cared for (IFAW, 2007, 2010).
IFAW claims that elephant riding is rapidly increasing, with 25 per cent more elephants in captivity
for commercial use, rising from 89 to 112 between 2005 and 2007 (IFAW 2007). The promotion of
interactive experiences with trained elephants focuses on an ideal type scenario of how well elephants
are cared for or how they might be rehabilitated for release to join ‘wild’ herds in national parks. The
approach of organizations such as IFAW is open to criticism that it privileges Western cultural values,
especially around appropriate relations between elephants and people (for further discussion see Duf-
fy & Moore, 2011).
Concerns about animal welfare led to the creation of Elephant Management and Owners Associa-
tion (EMOA) to draw up standards for the elephant back safari industry (EMOA, Undated); and African
Conservation, Undated). As one interviewee put it, there is a need for standards of acceptability in
terms of keeping and managing elephants, including levels of exercise, provision of food and accept-
able working hours. Since this is a new industry elephant owners and managers lack experience, and
may not know how to properly manage captive elephants (anonymous interviewee, UK). These
concerns were underlined when undercover footage was released of young elephants being cruelly
treated during training (anonymous interviewee, UK).
Bradshaw (2009) and Bradshaw et al. (2005) have thoroughly investigated the problems faced by
trained elephants, ‘surplus’ baby elephants left over from culling, and survivors of major poaching
operations; they argue that ‘problem’ elephants that attack trainers or exhibit other violent or anti-so-
cial behaviours (such as the well documented case of elephants killing rhinos in Pilanesburg National
Park) are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In Elephant Breakdown Bradshaw et al.
(2005) argue that maternal separation, disruptions to the natural bonding processes and the absence
of social structures (such as older generations) contribute to hyper-aggression and to early musth
cycles in younger males.
R. Duffy / Annals of Tourism Research 44 (2014) 88–101 97
Author's personal copy
Furthermore, a recent study of elephants used for elephant back safaris in Letsatsing Game Reserve in
South Africa revealed that elephants secreted a slightly higher level of glucocorticoid which indicated a
higher level of stress on days when they interacted with tourists, when compared with days when they
were not working (Millspaugh et al., 2007). The serious concerns about animal welfare are largely ignored
in the promotion of interactive elephant experiences as meansof getting in touch with the wild. The devel-
opment of standards to govern working conditions for trained elephants underlines that they have been
recommodified in a new way, perhaps as service providers and workers in the tourism industry. This
constitutes a shift in how nature (elephants) are entrained and made amenable to the logics of capitalism,
but it also reveals the fundamental and underlying interlinkages between tourism and neoliberalism.
Neoliberalism targets and opens up new frontiers in nature to the logics of global capitalism. This is
apparent in the ways elephants are entrained, reconfigured and recreated to provide new products for
consumption in the global tourism industry. They are ‘flattened and deadend’ (Büscher et al., 2012)
because they are decontextualized from the wider ecosystem, which then allows neoliberalism to
separate them out to facilitate commodity capture. However, it is also important to note that interac-
tive elephant experiences can be regarded as part of the wider historical context of the commodifica-
tion of elephants. Furthermore, the extension and deepening of neoliberal logics to new arenas is not
necessarily entirely negative. Some captive elephants are not suited to release into national parks, so
their fate can be improved if they are working in the tourism industry. However, the case of interactive
experiences with elephants equally indicates how neoliberalism produces the negative aspects of
tourism. The process of training and managing elephants can result in injuries and deaths of mahouts
and tourists; further, the ways that interactive experiences are created and maintained raise serious
welfare concerns. This does raise questions about the long term viability of this emerging industry
in Southern Africa if tourists are convinced of the negative implications for elephant welfare. Examin-
ing interactive elephants in southern Africa indicates that it is vitally important that tourism studies
tackles the interactions between neoliberalism and tourism in order to develop our understanding of
the ways that the industry has extended and deepened its reach across the globe.
It is clear that there is a need for more critical interrogations of the links with neoliberalism, build-
ing on the analyses offered by West and Carrier (2004), Neves (2010) and Fletcher (2011) amongst
others. We need to examine the neoliberal underpinnings of tourism and the ways this transforms,
creates and recreates nature. It is especially important to understand how this produces new forms
of interaction between animals and people and how it links in to debates about the welfare of animals
as a labourforce for tourism. Further, we need to take an interdisciplinary approach, drawing insights
fro, for example, international relations, anthropology, geography. It is vitally important that we
develop a better conceptual framework, as well as more thorough empirical studies, for understanding
the relationship of tourism to capitalism, especially since some scholars claim we are now in a ‘post-
neoliberal’ world. This is particularly pressing when we think through how nature is captured, recon-
figured and recreated by the tourism industry. In that sense it is critical that we examine the role
neoliberalism as a core theme in tourism studies.
Interviews cited in text
Academic researcher, Botswana, May 2008.
Representative of the Department of Tourism, Botswana, 2008.
Researcher and former manager of Seba Camp, Botswana, 2008.
Academic researcher, UK, 2008.
Representative of Living with Elephants, 2008.
Researcher, Botswana, 2008.
Anonymous interviewee (a), Botswana, 2008.
Anonymous interviewee (b), Botswana, 2008.
Anonymous interviewee, UK, 2008.
98 R. Duffy / Annals of Tourism Research 44 (2014) 88–101
Author's personal copy
I am grateful to Dr Lorraine Moore who played a key role in data collection; I am also grateful to the
Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) for funding this research, Grant number RES-000-22-
2599, title: Neoliberalising Nature? A comparative analysis of Asian and African elephant based ecotour-
ism. I would like to thank for Dr Joseph Mbwaia and Professor Michael Darkoh at the University of
Botswana, this research would not have been possible without their support. I thank Dr Katja Neves
for her extremely thoughtful comments on previous drafts. Finally, I very much appreciated the con-
structive comments provided by three anonymous reviewers, their thoughts helped to reshape and
strengthen the argument in this paper.
Adams, W. M. (2004). Against extinction: The story of conservation. London: Earthscan.
Ayikoru, M., Tribe, J., & Airey, D. (2009). Reading tourism education: Neoliberalism unveiled. Annals of Tourism Research, 36(2),
Bakker, K. (2005). Neoliberalising nature? Market environmentalisms in water supply in England and Wales. Annals of the
Association of American Geographers, 95(3), 542–565.
Bakker, K. (2009). Commentary: Neoliberal nature, ecological fixes, and the pitfalls of comparative research. Environment and
Planning A, 41(8), 1781–1787.
Bakker, K. (2010). The limits of ‘neoliberal natures’: Debating green neoliberalism. Progress in Human Geography, 34(6), 715–735.
Bianchi, R. (2004). Tourism restructuring and the politics of sustainability: A critical view from the European periphery (the
Canary islands). Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 12(6), 495–529.
Bradshaw, G. A. (2009). Elephants on the Edge: What Animals Teach us About Humanity. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Brand, U., & Gorg, C. (2008). Post fordist governance of nature: The internationalisation of the state and the case of genetic
resources—A Neo-Poulantzian perspective. Review of International Political Economy, 15(4), 567–589.
Braun, B. (2008). Environmental issues: Inventive life. Progress in Human Geography, 32(5), 667–679.
Brenner, N., & Theodore, N. (2002). Cities and the geographies of ‘actually existing neoliberalism’. Antipode: A Journal of Radical
Geography, 33(3), 349–379.
Brockington, D., & Duffy, R. (2010). Capitalism and conservation: The production and reproduction of biodiversity conservation.
Antipode: A Journal of Radical Geography, 42(3), 469–484.
Brockington, D., Duffy, R., & Igoe, J. (2008). Nature unbound: Conservation, capitalism and the future of protected areas. London:
Bulbeck, C. (2004). Facing the wild: Ecotourism, conservation and animal encounters. London: Earthscan.
Büscher, B. (2010). Derivative nature: Interrogating the value of conservation in boundless Southern Africa. Third World
Quarterly, 31(2), 259–276.
Büscher, B. E., Sullivan, Sian, Neves, K., Igoe, J., & Brockington, D. (2012). Towards a synthesized critique of neoliberal
biodiversity conservation. Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, 23(2), 4–30.
Butcher, J. (2003). The moralization of tourism: Sun, sand ...and saving the world? London: Routledge.
Castree, N. (2003). Commodifying what nature? Progress in Human Geography, 27(3), 273–292.
Castree, N. (2008a). Neo-liberalizing nature 1: The logics of De- and Re-regulation. Environment and Planning A, 40(1), 131–152.
Castree, N. (2008b). Neo-liberalizing nature 2: Processes, outcomes and effects. Environment and Planning A, 40(1), 153–173.
Castree, N. (2009). Researching neoliberal environmental governance: A reply to Karen Bakker. Environment and Planning A,
41(8), 1788–1794.
Cox, R. (1996). Approaches to world order. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Duffy, R., & Moore, L. (2010). Neoliberalising nature: Elephant back tourism in Thailand and Botswana. Antipode: A Radical
Journal of Geography, 42(3), 742–766.
Duffy, R., & Moore, L. (2011). Encountering global regulations via local practices: The politics of animal welfare in elephant
tourism. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 19(4–5), 589–604.
Elephant Back Safaris Media Pack (2008). Elephant back safaris, private bag 332. Botswana: Maun.
Fletcher, R. (2011). Sustaining tourism, sustaining capitalism? The tourism industry’s role in global capitalist expansion. Tourism
Geographies, 13(3), 443–446.
Gill, S. (1998). New constitutionalism, democratisation and global political economy. Pacifica Review, 10(1), 23–38.
Government of Botswana (2002). Botswana national ecotourism strategy. Gaborone: IUCN Botswana/Symbiosis Consulting Pty
Ltd. Botswana.
Hall, C. M. (2010). Academic capitalism, academic responsibility and tourism academics: Or, the silence of the lambs? Tourism
Recreation Research, 35(3), 298–301.
Harvey, D. (2005). A brief history of neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Heynen, N., & Robbins, P. (2005). The neoliberalisation of nature: Governance, privatization, enclosure and valuation. Capitalism
Nature Socialism, 16(1), 5–8.
Heynen, N., McCarthy, J., Prudham, W. S., & Robbins, P. (Eds.). (2007). Neoliberal Environments: False Promises and Unnatural
Consequences. London: Routledge.
Keitumetse, S. (2009). The eco-tourism of cultural heritage management (ECT-CHM): linking heritage and ‘environment’ in the
Okavango delta regions of Botswana. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 15(2–3), 223–244.
Lacher, R. G., & Nepal, S. K. (2010). Dependency and development in Northern Thailand. Annals of Tourism Research, 37(4),
R. Duffy / Annals of Tourism Research 44 (2014) 88–101 99
Author's personal copy
Lorimer, J. (2007). Non-human charisma. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 25(5), 911–932.
Lorimer, J. (2010). Elephants as companion species: The lively biogeographies of Asian elephant conservation in Sri Lanka.
Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 35(4), 491–506.
Lorimer, J., & Whatmore, S. (2009). After the ‘king of beasts’: Samuel Baker and the embodied historical geographies of elephant
hunting in mid-nineteenth—century Ceylon. Journal of Historical Geography, 35(2), 668–689.
MacKenzie, J. M. (1988). Empire of nature: Hunting, conservation and British imperialism. Manchester: Manchester University
Mansfield, B. (2004). Neoliberalism in the oceans: ‘Rationalization’, property rights and the commons question. Geoforum, 35(3),
Mbaiwa, J. (2004). The socio-cultural impacts of tourism development in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Journal of Tourism and
Cultural Change, 2(2), 163–185.
Mbaiwa, J. (2008). The realities of ecotourism development in Botswana. In A. Spenceley (Ed.), Responsible tourism: Critical issues
for conservation and development (pp. 205–223). London: Earthscan.
McAfee, K. (1999). Selling nature to save it? Biodiversity and the rise of green developmentalism. Environment and Planning D:
Society and Space, 17(2), 133–154.
McAfee, K. (2012). The contradictory logic of global ecosystem services markets. Development and Change, 43(1), 105–131.
McCarthy, J., & Prudham, S. (2004). Neoliberal nature and the nature of neoliberalism. Geoforum, 35(3), 275–283.
Millspaugh, J. T., Burke, T., Van Dyk, G., Slotow, R., Washburn, B. E., & Woods, R. J. (2007). Stress response of working African
elephants to transportation and safari adventures. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 71(4), 1257–1260.
Mirowski, P., & Plehwe, D. (Eds.). (2009). The road from Mount Pelerin: The making of a neoliberal thought collective. Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press.
Neves, K. (2010). Cashing in on cetourism: A critical ecological engagement with dominant E-NGO discourses on whaling,
cetacean conservation, and whale watching. Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography, 42(3), 719–741.
O’Connor, J. (1988). Capitalism, nature, socialism: A theoretical introduction. Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, 1(1), 11–38.
Overbeek, H. (1993). Restructuring hegemony in the global political economy. The rise of transnational neoliberalism in the 1980s.
London: Routledge.
Peck, J., & Theodore, N. (2007). Variegated capitalism. Progress in Human Geography, 31(6), 731–777.
Peck, J., & Tickell, A. (2002). Neoliberalising space. Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography, 34(3), 380–404.
Reid, D. G. (2003). Tourism, globalisation and development: Responsible tourism planning. London: Pluto Press.
Schilcher, D. (2007). Growth versus equity: The continuum of pro-poor tourism and neoliberal governance. Current Issues in
Tourism, 10(2–3), 166–193.
Sharpley, R., & Telfer, J. D. (Eds.). (2002). Tourism and development. Clevedon: Channel View.
Walker, J., & Cooper, M. (2011). Genealogies of resilience: From systems ecology to the political economy of crisis adaptation.
Security Dialogue, 42(2), 143–160.
West, P., & Carrier, J. G. (2004). Ecotourism and authenticity. Getting away from it all? Current Anthropology, 45(4), 483–498.
Whatmore, S. J. (2002). Hybrid geographies: Natures, cultures, spaces. London: Sage.
World Travel and Tourism Council (2012). Travel and tourism economic impact. Botswana, London: WTTC.
Zeller, C. (2008). From the gene to the global: extracting rents based on intellectual property monopolies. Review of International
Political Economy, 15(1), 86–115.
Web sources
Abu Camp (Undated). About. Retrieved April 20 2011
African Conservation (Undated). African Conservation. Retrieved March 05 2010
African Travel and Tourism Association (Undated). Home. Retrieved July 26 2012
Botswana Tourism Board (Undated a). Botswana Tourism. Retrieved April 20 2011
Botswana Tourism Board (Undated b). Viewing the Wildlife. Retrieved April 20 2011
Cango Ostrich (Undated). Ostrich Riding. Retrieved April 26 2011
Daily Mail (2007). Elephant ride puts couple in intensive care 06.04.07. Retrieved July 31 2012
Elephant News (2008). Elephant News. Retrieved July 30 2012. post
EMOA. (Undated). Elephant Organisations. Retrieved May 06 2011
IFAW. (2010). Helping elephants in danger. Retrieved March 03 2010
IFAW. (2007). Elephant-back safaris Simply ‘accidents waiting to happen’ warns top tourism insurer 10.05.07. Retrieved March
03 2010
IFAW. (2006). Deadly Elephant Safari tourism under fire, 10.03.06. Retrieved March 03 2010.
ifaw_southern_africa/media_center/press_releases/3_10_2006_47659.php; accessed 03.03.10).
IFAW (Undated a). Elephants taken from the wild in Zimbabwe for tourism trade 8.11.06. Retrieved March 03 2010 http://
IFAW (Undated b). Who We Are. Retrieved March 03 2010
Living With Elephants (Undated). Living With Elephants. Retrieved February 25 2011
RETOSA (Undated). Home. Retrieved July 27 2011
100 R. Duffy / Annals of Tourism Research 44 (2014) 88–101
Author's personal copy
Safari par Excellence (Undated a). Elephant Back Safaris. Retrieved May 02 2011
Safari par Excellence (Undated b). Lion Encounter. Retrieved April 26 2011
Sanctuary Retreats (Undated a). Home. Retrieved April 22 2011
Sanctuary Retreats (Undated b). Stanleys Camp. Retrieved April 22 2011
Sydney Morning Herald (2010). Elephant in fatal attack on Australian. 24.10.10. Retrieved July 30 2012 http://
The Age (2010). Elephant in fatal attack on Australian. 24.10.10. Retrieved July 30 2012
Wilderness Safaris (Undated b). Seba Camp. Retrieved May 07 2011
Wilderness Safaris (Undated a). Abu Camp. Retrieved May 07 2011
World Tourism Organisation (2012). UNWTO releases comprehensive compendium of tourism statistics. Retrieved July 27 2012
R. Duffy / Annals of Tourism Research 44 (2014) 88–101 101
... While elephant tourism in South Africa has been predominantly focused on observational safaris involving free-living elephants, it is becoming increasingly popular to add in more interactive experiences with captive "trained" elephants [151]. For example, reported high profits from elephant riding have led tour operators to use inadequately trained elephants and mahouts, resulting in welfare concerns and injuries to both mahouts and tourists [151]. ...
... While elephant tourism in South Africa has been predominantly focused on observational safaris involving free-living elephants, it is becoming increasingly popular to add in more interactive experiences with captive "trained" elephants [151]. For example, reported high profits from elephant riding have led tour operators to use inadequately trained elephants and mahouts, resulting in welfare concerns and injuries to both mahouts and tourists [151]. ...
Full-text available
Background: Elephants are exploited for public entertainment tourism throughout Asia and Africa. Areas of concern include public health and safety and animal welfare. Materials and Methods: We examined over 500 scientific publications with respect to our primary objectives, as well as non-peer-reviewed materials relating to other relevant subject matters (e.g., tourism promotional websites and YouTube films) for background purposes, although these additional materials were not included in this review. Results: We identified at least 12 confirmed or potential zoonotic and other transmissible infections relevant to the elephant tourism sector, and at least 13 areas of animal welfare concern. Conclusion: Infection and injury risks between humans and captive elephants cannot be safely controlled where close contact experiences are involved, arguably creating an unredeemable and indefensible public health and safety situation. Elephant welfare within some sectors of the close contact interactive tourism industry continues to involve significant mistreatment and abuse. To alleviate key One Health concerns outlined in this study, we recommend several types of regulation, monitoring, and control regarding interactions at the human-captive elephant interface. These include legal bans on the promotion and performance of close contact experiences, combined with strong enforcement protocols; new policies toward discouraging elephant tourism; 24/7 surveillance of captive elephants; and the adoption of independent scientific positive list systems for tourism promoters or providers regarding public observation of free-ranging elephants within national parks and protected areas.
... Finally, while both convivialities acknowledge conflict and messiness in living together, further details remain to be developed on mechanisms to mitigate and manage human-human and human-nonhuman conflict in an equitable, convivial spirit that is cognizant of historical-political contexts. While the convivialist manifesto (Alphandéry et al. 2013) lists 'managed conflict' as one of its four core principles (Humbert 2017), this would also need to be operationalized both between humans and between humans and wildlife in ways that take account of environments that are often fraught with violence and oppression (Lorimer 2010;Duffy 2014b). Beyond these convergences and divergences, there are problematic points in Illich's conviviality which Büscher and Fletcher's (2019) work either replicates or arguably neglects to address sufficiently. ...
... Finally, while both convivialities acknowledge conflict and messiness in living together, further details remain to be developed on mechanisms to mitigate and manage human-human and human-nonhuman conflict in an equitable, convivial spirit that is cognizant of historical-political contexts. While the convivialist manifesto (Alphandéry et al. 2013) lists 'managed conflict' as one of its four core principles (Humbert 2017), this would also need to be operationalized both between humans and between humans and wildlife in ways that take account of environments that are often fraught with violence and oppression (Lorimer 2010;Duffy 2014b). Beyond these convergences and divergences, there are problematic points in Illich's conviviality which Büscher and Fletcher's (2019) work either replicates or arguably neglects to address sufficiently. ...
Full-text available
We critically unpack the term 'coexistence' and discuss its potential to facilitate transformative change in wildlife governance.
... Finally, while both convivialities acknowledge conflict and messiness in living together, further details remain to be developed on mechanisms to mitigate and manage human-human and human-nonhuman conflict in an equitable, convivial spirit that is cognizant of historical-political contexts. While the convivialist manifesto (Alphandéry et al. 2013) lists 'managed conflict' as one of its four core principles (Humbert 2017), this would also need to be operationalized both between humans and between humans and wildlife in ways that take account of environments that are often fraught with violence and oppression (Lorimer 2010;Duffy 2014b). Beyond these convergences and divergences, there are problematic points in Illich's conviviality which Büscher and Fletcher's (2019) work either replicates or arguably neglects to address sufficiently. ...
Full-text available
This chapter introduces the edited book 'Convivial Conservation: From Principles to Practice' and synthesises the contributions through exploration of three overarching themes.
... Finally, while both convivialities acknowledge conflict and messiness in living together, further details remain to be developed on mechanisms to mitigate and manage human-human and human-nonhuman conflict in an equitable, convivial spirit that is cognizant of historical-political contexts. While the convivialist manifesto (Alphandéry et al. 2013) lists 'managed conflict' as one of its four core principles (Humbert 2017), this would also need to be operationalized both between humans and between humans and wildlife in ways that take account of environments that are often fraught with violence and oppression (Lorimer 2010;Duffy 2014b). Beyond these convergences and divergences, there are problematic points in Illich's conviviality which Büscher and Fletcher's (2019) work either replicates or arguably neglects to address sufficiently. ...
Full-text available
Global biodiversity is declining at an alarming rate, leading to calls for urgent change in how humans govern, conserve, and live with non-human species. It is argued that this change must be radical and transformative, and must challenge the structures and systems that shape biodiversity conservation. This book brings together a diverse group of authors to explore the potential for transforming biodiversity conservation, focusing on one particular proposal called convivial conservation: a vision, framework, and set of principles for a more socially just, democratic and inclusive form of biodiversity governance. Drawing on a rich mix of disciplinary perspectives and diverse case studies centring on human-wildlife interactions, the authors demonstrate the potential for transformation in biodiversity conservation that supports human-wildlife coexistence. The authors argue that this desired transformation will only be possible if the status quo is truly disrupted, and that convivial conservation has the potential to contribute to this disruption. However, convivial conservation must evolve in response to, and in harmony with, a plurality of ideas and perspectives, and resist becoming another top-down mode of conservation. To this end, a rich mix of visions, ideas, and pathways are put forward to move convivial conservation from principles to practice. The wealth of ideas offered in this collection provide important insights for students, academics, policy-makers, conservation professionals, and anyone who wants to think differently about biodiversity conservation and explore how it can be transformed towards a more just and abundant future.
... O turismo é considerado uma das indústrias que mais dispõem de ofertas turísticas diversificadas. É por esse motivo que muitos dos destinos e operadores turísticos procuram incessantemente novas formas de atrair mais turistas e visitantes através da criação de ofertas turísticas cada vez mais diversificadas (Duffy, 2014). Esta oferta é criada de modo a corresponder às expectativas do turista e ir de encontro ao que este procura, chamada de turismo de interesse especial ou de nicho, em parte por ser um ramo especializado para interesses específicos e para um público segmentado (Mateus, 2017). ...
Full-text available
Capitólio, cidade localizada no sudoeste de Minas Gerais -Brasil, conhecida como Mar de Minas, faz parte do Lagoa de Furnas, área alagada artificialmente nos anos de 1950 para a construção da Usina Hidrelétrica de Furnas. Com seus 1.440 km² de superfície, é a maior extensão de água de Minas Gerais, localiza-se a cerca de 280 quilômetros de Belo Horizonte e 480 quilômetros de São Paulo, a cidade vem saindo do anonimato. Cânions, cascatas, lagos, cachoeiras, piscinas naturais e outras riquezas vão se incorporando a sua paisagem. Capitólio conta também com passeios sobre as montanhas, sobre o ar, o que traduz em dizer que as opções são não sobre ou nas águas. De acordo com a prefeitura local, a atividade turística representa 65% do PIB, com mais 20 hotéis e pousadas com cerca de 1500 leitos, além de áreas de camping e casas para alugar. Com população local em torno de8.000 habitantes, passa a receber 4 mil turistas nos finais de semana e 20 mil nos feriados prolongados. Assim, o objetivo deste estudo foi apresentar a prática do turismo de natureza em Capitólio baseado nos atrativos existentes e os impactos da atividade para comunidade local. Como metodologia, recorreu-se a fontes bibliográficas de livros e artigos Além de uma pesquisa qualitativa, com uma amostragem não probabilística, entrevistando os moradores locais, poder público e iniciativa privada, com intuito de apresentar os atrativos turísticos existentes para que o turismo de natureza aconteça, também o ocorreu uma visita "in loco" de um dos pesquisadores no ano de 2016 com retorno à cidade em 2018, para uma análise dos impactos que a atividade turística tem gerado.
... Çalışmanın Konusu Duffy, R. (2014) Turizmin, doğa ve neoliberalizm arasındaki etkileşimini ele alırken Güney Afrika'daki fillerin turistlerin hizmetinde kullanılması, fillerin eğitimi ve yönetimi sürecinde ciddi yaralanmalara ve ölümlere neden olduğunu fakat yine de küresel kapitalizm mantığında fil deneyimlerinin metalaştırıldığını iddia etmektedir. ...
Full-text available
Urbanization that increased due to industrialization and a type of style to be preferred as living in the far away from the rural, made the human whose inner purity belongs to nature obligated to go back the nature. The wonder and the interest for the nature turned some of these areas once used to be belong to nature, partly, into the venues that serve for local and foreigner tourists. However, as this transformation enforcing the economic power in the rural areas by means of shrinking their economic and ecological issues, on the other hand leads to deterioration of the nature. This paper according to the parallel shifts that vary touristic demand and expectations around the globe, handling usage of touristic sources to be used within the purposes of touristic and using them in the rural areas both economically and ecologically contemplating the shifts and metamorphosis, argues in terms of the sustainability in the current economic system view. It’s vivid that sustainability’s been restricted in terms of economy, ecology and environment-tourism, as well as, it seems required that rational behaviouristic approach should be replaced by values economics. Within the research, firstly literature search has been done then there have been some proposals in the light of the previous researches about rural tourism’s economic and ecological impacts. Keywords: Ecological impacts, economic effects, sustainable rural tourism.
... NPs have nonetheless become a valuable label for the tourism industry. By those means, neoliberalism has transformed nature into a commodity for the tourism industry [11][12][13]61]. Whether or not establishing NPs is the best means to preserve pristine nature and wilderness and sustain them as a resource for the tourism industry is therefore debatable. ...
Full-text available
National parks serve a dual purpose: they aim to protect pristine nature and they are intended to facilitate visitation and provide necessary services. However, as visitation increases, it becomes challenging to establish a balance between visitation and the preservation of nature. This paper aims to examine the attitudes of tourism service providers in Iceland towards a proposed national park in the Central Highlands of Iceland, where pristine nature and wilderness are the main attraction, as well as the grounds for conservation. A mixed methodological approach was applied with an online questionnaire survey among all day-tour operators and travel agencies in Iceland, along with 48 semi-structured interviews as follow-up for a deeper understanding. In total, 382 companies answered the online survey, representing a 40% response rate. The results demonstrate that there are mixed opinions on whether the establishment of a national park is the best way to maintain the qualities of the area, with various arguments for and against the national park. Nevertheless, most tourism service providers want to have a say in its governance. It is however important to remember that the tourism industry exploits nature as a market-driven commodity, as its voice must always be evaluated in light of this.
... Çalışmanın Konusu Duffy, R. (2014) Turizmin, doğa ve neoliberalizm arasındaki etkileşimini ele alırken Güney Afrika'daki fillerin turistlerin hizmetinde kullanılması, fillerin eğitimi ve yönetimi sürecinde ciddi yaralanmalara ve ölümlere neden olduğunu fakat yine de küresel kapitalizm mantığında fil deneyimlerinin metalaştırıldığını iddia etmektedir. ...
Full-text available
Sanayileşme ile birlikte artan kentleşme ve doğadan uzak yaşam tarzı, asıl özü doğa olan insanın doğaya dönmesi elzem hale gelmiştir. Doğaya artan ilgi ve merak, bir zamanların tarımsal üretime ve tabiata ev sahipliği yapan bu alanların bir bölümünü, yerli ve yabancı turistlere hizmet eden mekânlara dönüştürmüştür. Fakat bu dönüşüm ekonomi ve ekoloji kıskacında kalarak bir yandan kırsal alanlardaki ekonomik yapıyı güçlendirirken diğer taraftan da ekolojik dengenin bozulmasına sebep olmaktadır. Bu çalışma da dünya genelinde değişen turistik talep ve beklentilere paralel olarak, turistik arz kaynaklarının kırsal turizm amaçlı kullanılması ile kırsal alanlarda hem ekolojik açıdan hem de ekonomik açıdan yaşanan değişim ve dönüşümleri ele alarak, kırsal turizmin sürdürülebilirliğini mevcut ekonomik sistem ekseninde tartışmaktadır. Sürdürülebilirliğin ekonomi, ekoloji ve çevre-turizm bağlamında kendisini gerçekleştirmede sınırlı kaldığı, neoliberal ekonominin rasyonel davranış anlayışının da değerler ekonomisi anlayışına yer bırakması gerektiği görülmektedir. Çalışma literatür araştırması ve ikincil veri kaynaklarından betimsel analize dayalı olarak gerçekleştirilmiş, elde edilen bilgiler ışığında bazı öneriler getirilmeye çalışılmıştır.
Lachung valley in north Sikkim, India is valorised and marketed as a pristine, traditional, culturally and ecologically rich landscape. Tourism in Sikkim relies on a trail of non-local tour operators, hotel chains and migrant labour, which in turn, has emptied the landscape of local communities who out-migrate for education and employment. This emptying however, comes not from displacement or dispossession, but from the effectiveness of local land regimes that allow many locals to live and work in other parts of the state while generating profits from the land. The paper focuses on tourist-based placemaking in Sikkim, India to illustrate, first, the reconfiguration of socio-spatial relationships as a result of tourism as a development strategy; second, the transformation of the landscape and the attendant mobilities that it enables, and finally, the material, social and political assemblages crucial to the production of the constantly shifting understandings of space and place.
Full-text available
The concept of ‘resilience’ was first adopted within systems ecology in the 1970s, where it marked a move away from the homeostasis of Cold War resource management toward the far-from-equilibrium models of second-order cybernetics or complex systems theory. Resilience as an operational strategy of risk management has more recently been taken up in financial, urban and environmental security discourses, where it reflects a general consensus about the necessity of adaptation through endogenous crisis. The generalization of complex systems theory as a methodology of power has ambivalent sources. While the redefinition of the concept can be directly traced to the work of the ecologist Crawford S. Holling, the deployment of complex systems theory is perfectly in accord with the later philosophy of the Austrian neoliberal Friedrich Hayek. This ambivalence is reflected in the trajectory of complex systems theory itself, from critique to methodology of power.
Robert Cox's writings have had a profound influence on recent developments in thinking in world politics and political economy in many countries. This book brings together for the first time his most important essays, grouped around the theme of world order. The volume is divided into sections dealing respectively with theory; with the application of Cox's approach to recent changes in world political economy; and with multilateralism and the problem of global governance. The book also includes a critical review of Cox's work by Timothy Sinclair, and an essay by Cox tracing his own intellectual journey. This volume will be an essential guide to Robert Cox's critical approach to world politics for students and teachers of international relations, international political economy, and international organisation.
What do wild animals mean to humans? Will they survive both rampant habitat loss and extinction caused by human encroachment and, as ecotourists, our enthusiasm for them? With ecotourism now the fastest growing segment of tourism, and encounters with wild animals - be it swimming with dolphins, going on safari or bird watching - ever more popular, these are critical questions. Yet until now little has been known about why people crave encounters with wild animals and the meaning for the ecotourism industry, conservation efforts and society at large. Facing the Wild is the first serious empirical examination of why people seek out animals in their natural environment, what the desire for this experience tells us about the meanings of animals, nature, authenticity and wilderness in contemporary industrialized societies, and whether visitors change their environmental perspectives and behaviour, as the custodians of wildlife parks would like them to. The book explores the contradictions and ambivalence that so many people experience in the presence of 'wild nature' - in loving it we may diminish it and in the act of wanting to see it we may destroy it. Ultimately the book makes a case for 'respectful stewardship' of a 'hybrid nature' and provides insight for both practitioners and ecotourists alike.
Rawing on accounts from India to Africa and California to Tennessee, and on research in neuroscience, psychology, and animal behavior, G. A. Bradshaw explores the minds, emotions, and lives of elephants. Wars, starvation, mass culls, poaching, and habitat loss have reduced elephant numbers from more than ten million to a few hundred thousand, leaving orphans bereft of the elders who would normally mentor them. As a consequence, traumatized elephants have become aggressive against people, other animals, and even one another; their behavior is comparable to that of humans who have experienced genocide, other types of violence, and social collapse. By exploring the elephant mind and experience in the wild and in captivity, Bradshaw bears witness to the breakdown of ancient elephant cultures. All is not lost. People are working to save elephants by rescuing orphaned infants and rehabilitating adult zoo and circus elephants, using the same principles psychologists apply in treating humans who have survived trauma. Bradshaw urges us to support these and other models of elephant recovery and to solve pressing social and environmental crises affecting all animals, human or not.
‘Conservation in the 21st century needs to be different and this book is a good indicator of why.’ Bulletin of British Ecological Society Against Extinction tells the history of wildlife conservation from its roots in the 19th century, through the foundation of the Society for the Preservation of the Wild Fauna of the Empire in London in 1903 to the huge and diverse international movement of the present day. It vividly portrays conservation's legacy of big game hunting, the battles for the establishment of national parks, the global importance of species conservation and debates over the sustainable use of and trade in wildlife. Bill Adams addresses the big questions and ideas that have driven conservation for the last 100 years: How can the diversity of life be maintained as human demands on the Earth expand seemingly without limit? How can preservation be reconciled with human rights and the development needs of the poor? Is conservation something that can be imposed by a knowledgeable elite, or is it something that should emerge naturally from people's free choices? These have never been easy questions, and they are as important in the 21st century as at any time in the past. The author takes us on a lively historical journey in search of the answers.
This paper presents a meta-analysis of recent critiques of geographical scholarship on ‘neoliberal natures’. The analysis juxtaposes distinct (and at times divergent) conceptualizations of neoliberalism — as political doctrine, as economic project, as regulatory practice, or as process of governmentalization — and also of nature — as primary commodity, as resource, as ecosystem service, or as socio-natural assemblage. Strategies for developing a more systematic account of the variegation of neoliberal natures are discussed, with the goal of provoking scholars of neoliberal natures to reflect upon their core conceptual and methodological commitments, while contributing to broader debates over neoliberalism and the ‘nature of nature’.