Casual poses against colorful walls while your friend stands in the street looking for the right angle. Accidentally destroying a $200,000 art installation. And now: selfies with wild animals. It’s all for the ‘gram, and none of it is really worth the damage it causes.
Which is why Instagram has announced that they are now hiding animal selfies and, further, encouraging people not to take them at all.
Oh no, but what about the cool sloth I saw when I was on vacation? you may be wondering. How will people know I bathe off the southern coast of Saint Barth’s, hanging with spider monkeys?
Well, your sloth selfies and perspective changing spider monkey photos will just have to stay the stuff of dreams, because they’re often the product of animal abuse. In a Dec. 4 press release, Instagram said that anyone who searches for hashtags “associated with harmful behavior to animals or the environment” will see a content advisory warning them of the abuse these animals often suffer. The release continued, “We encourage everyone to be thoughtful about interactions with wild animals and the environment to help avoid exploitation and to report any photos and videos you may see that may violate our community guidelines.”
The move comes after international animal welfare nonprofit World Animal Protection (WAP) released the findings of an investigations into the consequences of animal selfies. WAP found that the ubiquity of cameras and popularity of photo-based social media is actually harming wild animals.
According to The Guardian, there has been a 292 percent increase in the number of selfies with animals posted to Instagram since 2014. The ability to take these selfies, usually thanks to wildlife tourism, comes with a hefty price tag: wild animals taken from their habitats are often kept in “cruel conditions.” And WAP found that many of them suffer from grievous injury, illness, and even premature death.
And with the massive increase in wild animal selfies, over 40 percent of the images posted, according to WAP, are “bad” selfies: someone hugging, holding, or inappropriately interacting with a wild animal. For example: all the sloth and koala selfies you see? They may look cute, but sloths and koalas, according to WAP, do not like being handled, and being carried around or held for photos can cause them “great amounts of distress.”
WAP gave kudos to Instagram for making the announcement. In a celebratory press release, WAP reminded readers, “Your voice is powerful.”