How Our Selfies With Wildlife Are Encouraging Animal Cruelty

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The emergence of social media has sparked a global trend amongst tourists, as they gleefully take selfies with wild animals and share it across their social media platforms, especially on Instagram.

In fact, a report by the World Animal Protection underlined that Instagram has seen a 292% increase in wildlife selfies throughout the globe, and while the craze may come off as adorable, it is revealed that at least 40% of incidences involved “humans hugging or inappropriately interacting with wild animals.”

According to AFP, this shocking revelation further encourages inhumane treatment projected upon the iconic Amazonian species as activists highlighted that these animals are often captured and abused for the profit gains of tourism businesses.

“Behind the scenes these animals are often beaten into submission, taken from their mothers as babies and secretly kept in filthy, cramped conditions or repeatedly baited with food that can have a long term negative impact on their biology and behaviour,” the group said.

“All too often, to the unsuspecting tourist, the cruelty that makes these animals submissive and available is entirely invisible.”

In their effort to identify just how prevalent wildlife animals kept in captivity endure abuse for the sake of human entertainment, The Guardian reported that the World Animal Protection investigators found clear signs of abuse and mistreatment during their trip to Manaus, Brazil and Puerto Alegria, Peru:

  • Sloths captured from the wild, not surviving longer than six months;
  • Birds such as toucans with severe wounds on their feet;
  • Green anacondas injured and dehydrated;
  • Caiman crocodiles restrained with rubber bands around their jaws;
  • and A giant anteater, manhandled and beaten by its owner

Additionally, the group also uncovered that 18 tour companies in the Brazilian Amazon city of Manaus offered tourists the opportunity to “hold and touch wild animals as photo props,” with some of the ‘animal props’ including the pink river dolphin, the three-toed sloth, caimans, green anacondas and squirrel monkeys.

“It’s extremely distressing to see animals being stolen from the wild and used as photo props for posting on social media,” Global Wildlife Adviser Dr Neil D’Cruze said.

“The growing demand for harmful wildlife selfies is not only a serious animal welfare concern but also a conservation concern.

“Our online review of this kind of practice in Latin America found that more than 20% of the species involved are threatened by extinction and more than 60% are protected by international law.”

Meanwhile, the coordinator for enforcement at the Brazilian Environmental Institute Ibama, Roberto Cabral, relayed to AFP that it is illegal to keep animals for the sake of attracting tourists, but conveyed that the trend pales in comparison with illegal trafficking of wildlife animals.

“But the irony is that the tourist who usually takes photos with an animal is the same tourist who likes animals but is now contributing to that animal's distress,” he advised tourists to forego the trend.

Be that as it may, Victoria Brown wrote in The Star that animal enthusiasts should not be saddened by the news as there is a possible way to capture ‘safe’ wildlife animal selfies.

“Bad wildlife selfies are when the animal is being held, touched, restrained or baited for the purpose of being a photo prop,” she wrote in the English daily.

“Some bad photos include taking pictures with a chained and sometimes sedated tiger, or holding up a turtle by its shell, or cradling a sloth.

“Good wildlife photos can be images where a wild animal has no direct contact with humans and the animal is not being restrained or in captivity to be used for photo-taking purposes.”

On that note, Malaysian Digest urges readers to keep a safe distance prior snapping a selfie or two with wild animals and to always be mindful of their situation as no animals should have to suffer for our pleasure.

- Malaysian Digest