Top travel website TripAdvisor has been accused of "profiting from the world's cruelest animal attractions" by an international animal welfare charity.

World Animal Protection wrote in a statement this week that TripAdvisor promoted and profited from attractions like elephant riding by featuring them in their listings.

It estimated that at least 550,000 wild animals were "suffering at the hands of irresponsible wildlife tourist attractions around the world", which were sold via TripAdvisor.

These attractions included riding elephants, handling sea turtles, watching dolphin performances and taking selfies with lions and tigers.


The charity said tourists were not usually aware of the "abuse and suffering the animals experience in these venues".

"TripAdvisor is hugely influential and has a critical role to play in helping to end the cruel abuse of wild animals in tourism," said Julie Middelkoop, Global Head of the Wildlife - Not Entertainers Campaign at World Animal Protection.

"We know people want to see wild animals, but they need to be aware of the suffering that goes on behind the scenes and make better, animal friendly, choices.

"Eight out of ten tourists leave positive reviews for cruel wildlife attractions on TripAdvisor because they don't see the abuse. It's time TripAdvisor started educating tourists on wildlife friendly venues, similar to the way it promotes eco-friendly accommodations through their GreenLeaders programme."

Last week, an elderly elephant in Angkor, Cambodia, suffered from heart failure after carrying tourists in extreme heat.

A petition asked the Apsara Authority, which is in charge of research, protection and conservation at the Angkor Archaeological Park, to ban elephant rides at Angkor. It had received over 30,000 signatures.

A spokesperson for TripAdvisor told MailOnline Travel that listing an attraction didn't represent an "endorsement of that establishment" and tours booked through Viator, its subsidiary, went through a pre-screening process.