Costa Rica, renowned for its wildlife, has recently launched a campaign to dissuade people from taking selfies with wild animals. Despite being banned in the country more than 10 years ago, large numbers of selfies are still being taken with wildlife anyway. To spotlight animal rights, promote wildlife safety and minimize animal selfies, Costa Rican authorities instead recommend taking photos with a stuffed toy.
As an animal lover’s utopia, Costa Rica sees many instances of selfies being taken with animals, whether for personal memories or for social media influencing. Unfortunately, animal selfies can be stressful for wildlife and can even place tourists at risk. To discourage this practice, the Costa Rican Ministry of Environment and Energy announced the #StopAnimalSelfies campaign, with the goal to “prevent visitors from feeding (animals), from capturing them for photos and from handling them.”
Why the ban on animal selfies? Wild animals do not naturally appreciate being “held, hugged or restrained,” as described in the Wildlife Selfie Code established by the World Animal Protection organization. But wild animals are often lured into a selfie with food, and these creatures could potentially injure or be injured by tourists.
The Humane Society International said, “We applaud Costa Rica’s efforts to ensure the protection, ethical management and welfare of wild animals by avoiding promoting practices that are cruel to animals, since they do not respect their natural behaviors and promote a mercantilist and utilitarian vision.”
A better practice, under the Wildlife Selfie Code, is to keep a safe distance from all wildlife. Permit the animals to remain untouched in their natural habitat. Avoid making loud noises. Especially avoid throwing objects at them to get their attention, and never touch, grab or hold an animal for a selfie.
Maria Revelo, Costa Rica’s Minister of Tourism, further explained, “The campaign has the objective of generating conscience about the adequate treatment that a sustainable tourism destination must guarantee to its wild animals and to those that get close to them as tourists. #StopAnimalSelfies has the support of the Costa Rican Tourism Board due to its contribution it makes to the country’s model of sustainable tourism development.”
Costa Rica’s move to halt cruel or inappropriate selfies with animals is a step in the right direction to educate people on wildlife encounters that place animals through stress or suffering and to promote animal rights and wildlife safety.
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