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In an age of advanced technology and social media, people are willing to go to extreme lengths for the perfect selfie. Recently, it has become apparent that this can even include killing innocent wildlife. In the last year, numerous news stories have reported a number of wild animals have died after being harassed by members of the public and forced to appear in their photos and videos (Brice, 2016) (Willis, 2016) (Connor, 2016).
One widely reported incident occurred earlier this year on a beach resort in Argentina. After spotting a baby La Plata Dolphin swimming close to the shore, a tourist decided to pick it out of the water and take it onto the sand. According to witnesses, the baby dolphin was then passed around a large group of people. Each trying to handle the creature and many taking photos. The baby dolphin died shortly after and was then discarded in the sand (Brice, 2016).
A small shark also allegedly died on a Florida beach recently after being dragged out of the water by a man so he could pose for photographs with it. The act was filmed by a witness and has caused a lot of fury. Animal rights organisations urge the public not to intervene with wild animals unless absolutely necessary, and certainly not for a selfie (Willis, 2016).
Animal Rights Organisation PETA has commented on both of these incidents. Urging authorities to find and charge those responsible. They also strongly advise people not to touch marine animals, and definitely not to remove them from the water. The following message appears on their website;
“If an animal appears to be in distress or is injured or if you see anyone harassing any animal. Contact your local authorities immediately. If they are unresponsive, you can contact PETA,” (Johnson, 2016).
Unfortunately, these tragic occurrences are happening all over the world. Another example occurred at a wildlife park in China earlier this year. Various signs at Yunnan Wild Animal Park warn visitors not to touch the animals. However, a peacock allegedly died from the shock it endured after tourists not only picked the bird up to take photos, but also removed its feathers to keep as souvenirs (Connor, 2016).
The desire to take these sorts of photos can be linked to the rise of social media and the ‘selfie’ in recent years. Social media outlets such as Facebook and Instagram allow users to instantly take and share unlimited amounts of photos online without hassle.
Professor of Psychology at the University of Dundee, Nicholas Wade states that improvements to smart phones have also enabled this trend. The ‘front’ camera which is now a common element of modern mobile devices, permits users to take numerous photos of themselves which they then can upload straight to social media. This allows the photo to be taken anytime, anywhere and by the person themselves. This convenient and uncomplicated nature of the selfie has allowed for the practise to become an actual addiction (Wade, 2013).
The American Psychiatric Association has stated that addiction to taking and uploading selfies is an actual disorder. And can occur due to low-self-esteem (Barry et al, 2015). In 2015, more people died as a result of taking a selfie than the yearly average for shark attack deaths (Horton, 2015). Therefore, it is evident that people are not only willing to endanger the lives of animals for the ‘perfect selfie’. They are also willing to risk their own life.
‘Animal selfies’ have recently been dubbed the latest form of animal cruelty by various animal activists. The trend of snapping a rare photo with an exotic animal has become increasingly popular (Howard, 2016). Taking photos with your pets at home is one thing. Forcing wild animals to pose for dangerous selfies is another. It has also proven to be fatal. Killing either an animal, or yourself, for a ‘selfie’ is never worth it.