Wildlife Selfies Threaten World’s Most Iconic Animals In The Amazon

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Local sloths are taken from the wild and used for harmful selfies with tourists, in Manaus, Brazil. (C) World Animal Protection / Nando Machado

From the environment to the exploitation by poachers, the list of obstacles that wild animals face daily to secure their survival sadly continues to grow.

A most recent threat to the animals is perhaps the most ridiculous; Wildlife Selfie.

According to a new report released by international charity World Animal Protection the quest for the ultimate selfie has also negatively impacted the lives, and potential deaths, of wild animals forever.

As a result, the explosive trend on social media is driving the suffering and exploitation of some of the world’s most iconic animals in the Amazon.

Focusing on two gateway cities of the Amazon, Manaus, Brazil, and Puerto Alegria, Peru, the World Animal Protection investigators revealed that animals are snatched from the wild, often illegally, and used by irresponsible tour operators who cruelly exploit and injure wildlife to entertain and provide harmful photo opportunities for tourists.

“The wildlife selfie craze is a worldwide phenomenon fueled by tourists, many of whom are unaware of the abhorrent conditions and terrible treatment wild animals may endure to provide that special souvenir photo,” said Steve McIvor, CEO at World Animal Protection. “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.”

In public view and behind the scenes, investigators uncovered evidence of cruelty being inflicted on wild animals, including:

  • Sloths captured from the wild, tied to trees with rope, not surviving longer than six months

  • Birds such as toucans with severe abscesses on their feet

  • Green anacondas wounded and dehydrated

  • Caiman crocodiles restrained with rubber bands around their jaws

  • An ocelot (a type of wild cat) kept in a small barren cage

  • A manatee held in a tiny tank in the forecourt of a local hotel

  • A giant anteater, manhandled and beaten by its owner

Cutting-edge research commissioned by World Animal Protection for insights into the worldwide trend on social media of wildlife selfies shows:

  • The number of wildlife selfies posted on Instagram has increased 292% between 2014 to present

  • 27% of wildlife selfies were posted within the U.S. or by U.S. users.

  • Over 40% of wildlife selfies show ‘bad’ or harmful wildlife selfies – i.e. someone hugging, holding or inappropriately interacting with a wild animal

  • People will most likely upload a ‘good’ or humane wildlife selfie when they have been educated or exposed to the cruelty behind the scenes.

“It’s extremely distressing to see animals being stolen from the wild and used as photo props for posting on social media. The reality is these unfortunate animals are suffering terribly, both in front of and behind the camera.”

“The growing demand for harmful wildlife selfies is not only a serious animal welfare concern but also a conservation concern says online review of this kind of practice in Latin America found that over 20% of the species involved are threatened by extinction and over 60% are protected by international law,” added Dr. Neil D’Cruze, Global Wildlife Advisor at World Animal Protection.

To tackle the issue, World Animal Protection is calling on relevant governments to enforce laws protecting wild animals, and ensure that travel companies and individuals who are exploiting wild animals for tourism in the Amazon abide by the existing laws.

The organization is also launching a Wildlife Selfie Code for tourists to learn how to take a photo with wild animals without fueling the cruel wildlife entertainment industry.

People are encouraged to join the movement to end this cruel industry by signing World Animal Protection’s Wildlife Selfie Code HERE and commit to keeping wild animals in the wild, where they belong!

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