MORE THAN 250,000 people across the world have registered their support for the “Wildlife Selfie Code”, which aims at ending the irresponsible taking of selfies with wild animals.
Developed by the World Animal Protection (WAP), the code has brought animal lovers’ attention to the fact that many Amazonian animals have been taken from the wild so tourists can take selfies to post on social media.
In Thailand, there have been recent controversies over animal selfies, in particular after tourists were seen posing with a tiger that was restrained and repeatedly prodded with a stick to make it roar.
The code advises people to take photos with wild animals only when the animals are in their natural habitat and free to move around. And for their own safety, tourists are also advised to keep a safe distance from the animals.
The code also tells tourists to not take wildlife selfies when animals are being held, hugged or restrained.
According to the WAP, people staging wildlife selfies for tourists in the Amazon search the treetops for sloths, which are captured and put on display. These typically calm, gentle animals are taken from their natural habitats, forced to live in noisy, chaotic environments, and repeatedly passed from tourist to tourist.
Among the 34 billion images posted by 700 million people on Instagram, the WAP estimates that there are tens of thousands of selfies taken with wild animals. These photos capture moments of shared joy for many people, but many elide the animals’ stress and suffering in such situations.
Recognising the impact on wild animals, Instagram last month launched a new “wildlife warning” page.
When Instagram users search for hashtags like #koalaselfie, #elephantride and #slothselfie, a message pops up, informing them about the animals’ suffering that has taken place to enable such a photo to be taken.
The WAP has described Instagram’s move as “amazing” and credited it to the more than 250,000 people who have signed up to support WAP Wildlife Selfie Code.
Peter Mason, acting director of World Animal Protection Thailand, said recently that WAP operations covering not just the selfie code but many more campaigns had already improved the lives of more than 1.7 billion animals across the world.
In Thailand for example, the WAP sent food and medicine to be provided to livestock and other animals in several flood-hit areas last year.