Instagram to warn users when viewing dolphin, koala selfies

December 7, 2017
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FEW photos are guaranteed to attract a bigger flurry of likes than a selfie with an adorable animal.

Whether with koalas, or dolphins, or the famously photogenic quokkas, animal selfies are the golden ticket to social media popularity, and we all love looking at them.

But Instagram is cracking down on animal selfies on its platform, saying the seemingly innocent photos may be more harmful than you think.

As of this week, when you search for hashtags like #slothselfie or #quokkaselfie on Instagram, a pop-up message will appear with a warning that the posts you’re about to see may be associated with animal abuse.

“Animal abuse and the sale of endangered animals or their parts is not allowed on Instagram,” the pop-up reads.

“You are searching for a hashtag that may be associated with posts that encourage harmful behaviour to animals or the environment.”

Users are then given the option of continuing to view the posts or to “learn more”. Those who choose the second option are redirected to a page in Instagram’s Help Centre that explains how the quest for animal selfies may be damaging to the environment.

The Washington Post reports Instagram decided to post the warnings after it was approached by the World Animal Protection, which had research that showed a 292 per cent increase in the number of selfies with wild animals posted since 2014.

More than 40 per cent of those photos depicted the animals being hugged, held, ridden or inappropriately handled, the group said.

The decision follows a number of headline-making incidents in which animals have died and suffered due to tourists trying to take photos with them.

Last month, news.com.au reported that animals, including sloths, were under threat from camera-happy tourists in the Amazon, and the guides operating tours there.

In footage released to news.com.au, World Animal Protection (WAP) filmed a tour guide spotting a sloth in a tree, climbing the tree, yanking the animal from a branch and bringing it down for tourists to photograph. It is said to be a common practice in the region.

And Australians are reportedly the worst at abusing animals for our Instagram feed — Australia has the highest concentration (35 per cent) of wildlife selfies according to social listening research commissioned by WAP.

In August, a baby dolphin died after tourists took it out of the water in Mojacar, in southern Spain, and posed for selfies with it on a packed beach.

The female had become separated from its mother and was stranded in shallow water off the beach. It attracted hundreds of beachgoers who passed it around for photos. Within 15 minutes it was dead.

A baby dolphin suffered a similar fate at a beach in San Bernardo in Argentina in January, and in Santa Teresita, also in Argentina, in February 2016.

“It’s extremely distressing to see animals being stolen from the wild and used as photo props,” Global Wildlife Advisor, Dr Neil D’Cruze from WAP, said.

“The reality is these unfortunate animals are suffering terribly, both in front of and behind the camera.”

Last year, TripAdvisor said it would ban ticket sales to attractions where tourists would touch wild animals, effectively black-listing popular activities such as elephant riding, swimming with dolphins and cuddling tigers.

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