Costa Rica cracks down on ‘cruel’ animal selfies with viral social media campaign

‘Taking selfies with animals is cruel, negatively impacts endangered species and may be dangerous’

By Nelson Oliveira New York Daily News

Selfie-ish tourists, please behave.

The Costa Rican government has launched a campaign urging anyone visiting the country to avoid taking pictures with wild animals, an increasingly common practice that can harm biodiversity.

The campaign, promoted by Costa Rica’s tourism institute in partnership with animal advocacy groups, encourages tourists to take a picture of themselves with stuffed or toy animals and post them on social media alongside the caption, “I don’t harm animals with a selfie,” and the hashtag #stopanimalselfies.

Taking selfies with animals is “cruel,” negatively impacts the preservation of endangered species and may be dangerous to tourists as they are “exposed to biting, attacks, scratches and contagious diseases,” the initiative’s official website states.

The campaign was inspired by a World Animal Protection study that ranked Costa Rica as the seventh country with the most wild-animal selfies in the world. The U.S., the U.K. and Australia topped the list, released in 2017.

The Central American nation is home to more than 5% of the world’s biodiversity, with dozens of national parks, wildlife refuges and biological reserves. Many of the country’s tourist sites allow people to have direct contact or even hold animals for selfies.

Tourists are encouraged to respect the natural behaviors of wild animals they visit by taking photos from a distance, remaining silent during observation and refraining from going into cages and enclosures.

“A wild animal’s natural behavior in the presence of human beings is to move away, to flee or to remain at a safe distance from people,” the campaign website states. “Forcing an animal to stay close to the people or attracting it with food will cause stress and suffering, and alter its natural behaviors.”

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