Costa Rica recently became the first country to launch a campaign aimed at eliminating the occurrence of cruel and inappropriate selfies with wild animals, as well as their negative effects and the risks involved. It is called the #stopanimalselfies campaign.
While Costa Rica is home to more than 5% of the world’s biodiversity and is one of the most biologically rich countries on the planet, sadly, selfies and photographs in direct contact with wild animals are causing great damage.
A worldwide study published by World Animal Protection in 2017 placed Costa Rica 7th in the world where photographs and selfies are severly impacting the biodiversity of the country.
As noted by the campaign, the “wildlife in Costa Rica is a public domain property protected by the State, so it is of national interest and responsibility of all Costa Ricans to ensure its proper management, use, and conservation.”
On a positive note, as per the Costa Rican Tourism Institute, more than 64% of the people who visit the country carry out activities directly related to ecotourism.
Vice Minister of Environment in Costa Rica, Pamela Castillo, maintains that the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) is committed to promoting responsible practices to ensure the health and conservation of wild species. That is why they are working to change harmful behaviors for wildlife through their promotion, communication, awareness, and educational campaigns that was launched in conjunction with the tourism sector.
“Direct contact with wild animals can be a risk to people and generate stress and suffering to wildlife. Animals can also be carriers of diseases or spread pathogens transmitted by people, so it is necessary to maintain a safe distance when observing them in their native habitat or in sanctuaries, and also respecting their natural behaviors,” Castillo said in a statement. “This contact with wild animals puts people who visit us from inside and outside of the country at risk, so we must keep a safe distance.”
María Amalia Revelo, the Minister of Tourism in Costa Rica agrees.
“The campaign aims to raise awareness about the appropriate treatment that a sustainable tourist destination must guarantee to wild animals and to those who approach them as visitors,” said Revelo. “Stop Animal Selfies has the support of the Costa Rican Tourism Institute for being a valuable contribution to the country’s sustainable tourism development design. In addition, the campaign watches over and is consistent with our interest in the safety of domestic and foreign tourists.”
“We congratulate the government of Costa Rica for launching one of the most ambitious initiatives and promoting responsible tourism in the region and in the world,” stated Roberto Vieto, Wildlife Manager of World Animal Protection. “We would like more countries to take these types of actions and show the same degree of responsibility to protect animals, when conducting animal-friendly campaigns. The tourists who visit these places are not aware of the cruelty that these animals suffer just for a photo.”
#stopanimalselfies encourages people to share ethical photographs with wildlife on their social networks, or take a selfie with a stuffed animal and write the phrase: “I don’t abuse wild animals for a selfie.”