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Statement on Instagram’s crack down on wildlife selfies

FOUR PAWS applauds Instagram on their latest announcement to “add content warnings” on frequently used hashtags that often coincide with a photo including a wild animal (#koalaselfie, #lionselfie #koalahugs, #tigerpet).


It is a practice trending on social media: snuggling a lion or tiger cub, a selfie with a baby monkey or sitting on the back of an elephant. What most travelers don’t realize is that a great deal of animal attractions may directly contribute to wildlife trafficking, animal cruelty, or worse – death and suffering of animals. Tigers and lions are often drugged, babies are often taken from the wild, and a great deal of ‘sanctuaries’ that claim to have rescued their animals are often breeding themselves.


Robert Ware, Executive Director of FOUR PAWS US welcomed the announcement from Instagram and explained, “We are organizationally opposed to any use of wild animals for human entertainment: But, this broad topic covers many, many instances. Whether it is riding elephants or petting lion cubs, tourists don’t realize these activities can cause lifelong suffering for wild animals.”


FOUR PAWS strongly encourages people to always be well-informed when they travel. To this end, the organization has created The Animal-Friendly Travel Brochure to help travelers avoid hurting animals while enjoying their vacations. These tips include: Never pay to have your photos taken with an animal; avoid activities where you can physically interact with wild animals such as tiger or lion cub petting, elephant rides, or swimming with dolphins; and never buy live animals or animal-derived souvenirs. Generally, an accredited sanctuary should have strict conservation measures that put the animals’ welfare first: no petting, feeding or interacting with the animals and there should be no breeding.


FOUR PAWS is currently fighting against the canned hunting industry in South Africa where thousands of lions are bred on farms to be shot by paying hunters. Most cruelly, cubs are hand-raised by unsuspecting tourist volunteers under the guise of conservation. As depraved as the practice is, the world is getting smarter. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has banned the import of lion hunting trophies (heads, skins, bones, etc), in essence disincentivizing American trophy hunters. Combined with the latest announcement from Instagram, we may soon see a world where wild animals are no longer exploited for mere a photo opportunity.