Our Love of Wildlife Selfies May Be Harming the Environment

© World Animal Protection
© World Animal Protection
If you’ve ever taken a selfie with a sloth or cuddled a caiman for Instagram then you could be supporting the mistreatment of wildlife.

A new campaign from World Animal Protection (WAP) is encouraging travellers to think more carefully before they endorse the abuse of wildlife for the ‘perfect shot’.

According to WAP, animals like sloths, caimans and anacondas are snatched illegally from their homes in the Amazon rainforest to be used as tourist attractions.

Their investigators found sloths tied to trees, caiman crocodiles restrained with their jaws taped shut, green anacondas wounded and dehydrated, ocelots (wild cats) kept in tiny cages and toucan birds with severe abscesses on their feet.

© World Animal Protection 

WAP reports a 292% increase in wildlife selfies on Instagram since 2014. Over 40% of animal selfies are deemed ‘bad’ by the WAP, meaning they show the person hugging, holding or inappropriately interacting with wild animals.

‘The wildlife selfie craze is a worldwide phenomenon fuelled by tourists, many of whom are unaware of the abhorrent conditions and terrible treatment wild animals can endure to provide that special souvenir photo,’ says World Animal Protection CEO Steve McIvor.

‘Behind the scenes wild animals are being taken from their mothers as babies and secretly kept in filthy, cramped conditions or repeatedly baited with food causing severe psychological trauma,’ he says.

© World Animal Protection 

In Manaus, Brazil, the charity found that direct contact with wild animals was offered on 94% of excursions, at six different locations, and that official tour guides actively encouraged this kind of activity on over three-quarters of excursions.

WAP is calling on the relevant government bodies to enforce existing animal cruelty legislation and ensure that travel companies and individuals who are exploiting wild, Amazonian animals for tourism abide by it.

The charity will be launching a Wildlife Selfie Code, which is intended to teach tourists how to take photos with wild animals without fuelling the cruel wildlife entertainment industry. In addition, WAP will be funding the expansion of a rehabilitation centre for sloths in Colombia.

For more information about ethical travel visit worldanimalprotection.org.uk.