Last year the American organisation World Animal Protection asked people to sign its Wildlife Selfie Code. Over a quarter of million signed. It is a pledge not to take a photograph of a wild animal if:
- It is being held, hugged, or restrained
- It has been enticed with food
- It could harm you
The organisation was particularly concerned by tourist-related activities in the Amazon rainforest
…this has led to the exploitation of sloths, caimans, pink river dolphins, anacondas, and many more animals, who belong in the wild. With their gentle, slow nature, and facial markings that give the impression they’re always smiling, sloths have become one of the main targets for people looking to use them for profit.
They go on to say that many people offering wildlife photography opportunities in the Amazon search treetops for sloths to steal. “These typically calm, gentle animals are snatched from their natural habitats, forced to live in noisy, chaotic environments, and repeatedly passed around from tourist to tourist.”
However, they have also developed simple guidelines for travellers about when it is ok to take wildlife photographs.
A photograph (selfie or not) is fine if:
- You keep a safe distance from the animal
- The animal is in its natural home
- The animal is free to move, and not captive
Instagram with over 800 million users has taken up the pledge and is now working closely with World Animal Protection. It has launched a new “content advisory page” that seeks to educate users. When users search for hashtags such as #koalaselfie and #slothselfie, a warning message will pop up. It reads “Animal abuse and the sale of endangered animals or their parts is not allowed on Instagram. You are searching a hashtag that may be associated with posts that encourage harmful behaviour to animals or the environment.”