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Iconic Wild Animals Suffering for Selfies

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

TORONTO—The explosive selfie trend on social media is driving the suffering and exploitation for some of the world’s most iconic animals in the Amazon, says international charity, World Animal Protection.

Focusing on two cities of the Amazon: Manaus, Brazil and Puerto Alegria, Peru, the charity’s investigators reveal that animals are taken from the wild—often illegally—and used by irresponsible tour operators who exploit and injure wildlife to entertain and provide harmful photo opportunities for tourists.

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

  • Sloths captured from the wild, not surviving longer than six months;
  • Birds such as toucans with severe wounds on their feet;
  • Green anacondas injured and dehydrated;
  • Caiman crocodiles restrained with rubber bands around their jaws; and
  • A giant anteater, manhandled and beaten by its owner.

Josey Kitson, Executive Director at World Animal Protection says, “A once-in-a-lifetime selfie can mean a lifetime of misery for a wild animal. Canadian tourists care about animals and most aren’t aware of the cruel industry they are fueling. Behind the lens, animals are being snatched from the wild and abused. Some of the species involved are threatened by extinction and many are protected by law. We are calling on relevant governments to enforce the laws and travel companies and tourists to abide by them.”

Partnership with Grassriots

The charity partnered with Grassriots, a Canadian-based digital agency to provide cutting edge research on the prevalence and trends around wildlife selfies. The results show:

  • A 292 percent increase in the number of wildlife selfies posted on Instagram between 2014 and present;
  • Over 40 percent of selfies are considered “bad” wildlife selfies—i.e. someone hugging, holding or inappropriately interacting with a wild animal; and
  • People will most likely upload a “good” wildlife selfie when they have been educated or exposed to the cruelty behind the scenes.

With this research, World Animal Protection is also launching a The Selfie Code for tourists to learn how to take a photo with wild animals without fueling the cruel wildlife entertainment industry.