Tourists are turning the camera on themselves to showcase their adventures and encounters. These selfies provide an easy method of capturing the experience and sharing it with the world. For some travelers, this can also mean animal encounters. Some tourist attractions allow animal selfies and more and more travelers are taking ill-advised selfies with these wild animals. Travelers need to understand the dangers of such crazy risks. So before you stick your head in a bear’s mouth here are a few questions you need to ask yourself before you snap that all important selfie!
Is this animal wild?
There are two different types of animal selfies – the ones with captive pets in controlled environments and the ones with their wild cousins. Wild animals are very unlikely to behave for the camera, which could lead to problems such as injury, to either you or the animal, and a lot of stress for the animal. Wild animal selfies should be avoided at all costs but, if you must, there are other considerations to make.
Is your selfie likely to lead to injury?
Maybe a quick picture won’t do you any harm, but you could be underestimating the dangers posed by an animal you are turning your back on. A pet dog could do you some serious damage, so you might want to think about what a wild animal could do. Sharks have sharp teeth, birds have sharps beaks and almost everything has claws. In Gibraltar, tourists often underestimate the power and unpredictability of the wild Apes while trying to take selfies.
Could you get yourself in trouble?
A selfie with a wild animal might seem like a great once-in-lifetime opportunity to share on social media. But is it something that will land you in the local jail? Just because you think that a close up shot with manatee is a good idea, it doesn’t mean that everyone else that sees the photos will agree. Recently a Florida native just learned that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission takes its manatee safety seriously. After posting several photos on Facebook of himself and his two young daughters playing with a baby manatee, the authorities arrested him. Now he’s looking at up to 6 months in jail and a big fine to match.
Will your photo risk injury or stress to the animal?
Not only do you need to think about your own safety, but you also have to consider the welfare of the animal. Even seemingly harmless actions like a quick photo can negatively affect an animal. Physical contact, loud noise, or even a camera flash can stress an animal. Careless actions like lighting up the beach where sea turtles are nesting or gathering around beached whales or dolphins can result in tragic outcomes Attempting to “help” animals can also have unintended consequences, as seen in the case of the bison calf that had to be euthanized when people who believed it to be in danger of being hit by traffic loaded it into their car. Human contact can cause wild animals to lose their natural fear of people, creating a dangerous environment for both man and animal. Bears and alligators have frequently come to associate people with food, leading to sometimes horrific encounters.
Is your selfie supporting unethical businesses?
Some tourists feel more comfortable taking their selfies at tourist attractions that feature normally wild animals kept in captivity. Swim with the Dolphins attractions are popular but can be stressful for these highly social animals, as they may have been separated from their pod and forced into frequent, unnatural interactions with humans. Other attractions may offer photos with more dangerous creatures, including big cats like lions and tigers. These encounters can be dangerous, as animals that seem docile and content to be approached may turn aggressive in an instant if they are spooked. Furthermore, they may be kept in harsh, unhealthy conditions, treated as just another piece of property rather than living, breathing beings. These animals are frequently used when young as photo opportunities, but are disposed of when they outgrow their usefulness. On ethical grounds alone, it is best to avoid these kinds of selfies.
There are important things to keep in mind when thinking about taking a selfie with an animal. Whether the animal is in the wild or kept at a tourist attraction, both your safety and that of the animal are jeopardized by trying to be too “up close and personal.” Do yourself and the animals a favor by photographing wildlife from a safe distance and avoiding disturbing the natural habitat.