Instagram cracks down on selfies with wild animals
Tuesday, December 5, 2017, 17:07 - Despite numerous warnings from wildlife officials, people can't stop taking "selfie" photos with wild animals and posting them on social media.
Experts say the practice is reckless and it can put animals and humans in harm's way, an assertion that can be backed up by numerous media reports.
In 2015, for example, Alex Gomez, 36, suffered a horrible bite and $150,000 hospital bill after he tried to take a picture with a 1-metre-long snake on his family's ranch.
That same year, wildlife officials were outraged when a swarm of selfie-crazed tourists swarmed an olive ridley turtle nesting spot in Costa Rica. A series of viral photos show visitors touching the turtles and smashing their nests. Some placed their children on top of the turtles to take photos -- forcing many to return back to sea without being able to lay their eggs.
Then, in 2016, it was reported that bison attacks on humans were on the rise, partly due to humans getting too close in hopes of taking a photo.
On Monday, the photo-sharing app Instagram took measures to curb the dangerous trend by issuing a warning to users who search for popular terms associated with animal selfies.
The warning doesn't mince words.
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"You are searching for a hashtag that may be associated with posts that encourage harmful behaviour to animals or the environment," it reads in part.
Users are still able to click through to view the photos, which haven't been outright banned.
"Whether you're trying to capture a perfect photo or take a selfie, we encourage you to be mindful of the environment around you," Instagram says in an online statement.
"It's easy to get caught up in the moment when you're surrounded by nature's beauty, but risking damage to the environment—whether it's walking on wildflowers, moving a nest or carving initials—is never worth a few likes."
The sentiment is echoed almost unanimously by animal advocates.
"Approaching wild animals can drastically affect their well-being and, in this case, their survival," The National Park Service says on its website.
In U.S. national parks, regulations require guests stay at least 75 ft. from all wildlife and at least 300 ft. away from bears and wolves.
"Disregarding these regulations can result in fines, injury, and even death. The safety of these animals, as well as human safety, depends on everyone using good judgment and following these simple rules," The service says.