You may want to think twice before taking a selfie with a wild animal on vacation. At least, that’s what the Costa Rican government, civil society organizations and tourism companies want.
The new #stopanimalselfies campaign, promoted by these stakeholders, is trying to inform consumers about the ramifications of taking selfies and photos that involve direct contact with animals in the wild. Such ramifications include being exposed to biting, attacks and diseases, as well as the fact it’s cruel to the animals.
Travelers can join the campaign by taking pictures with stuffed or toy animals and writing “I don’t harm wild animals for a selfie” as the caption, with the #stopanimalselfies hashtag.
“Our goal and responsibility as global leaders in environmental issues is to educate and encourage new world ambassadors committed to wildlife protection,” Pamela Castillo, Vice Minister of Costa Rican Ministry of Environment and Energy, told CNN Travel.
The #stopanimalselfies guide includes tips such as:
- Watch animals from a safe distance
- Don’t take a selfie hugging or holding an animal as it is exploitative and leads to mishandling
- Never take them away from their habitat
- Don’t feed them or try to get their attention with food or sounds
- Go on wildlife observation experiences with a trustworthy tour operator
If you do wish to take a picture with an animal, “respect their natural behaviors and keep a safe distance,” the Stop Animal Selfies website reads. “You will thus care for yourself and protect the wild animals.” The website also points out regulations in the country related to biodiversity and wildlife preservation – including that wild animal contact with tourists, volunteers or visitors is prohibited.
The World Travel & Tourism Council wrote on Twitter that the country “wants to become the first country to regulate the incidence of cruel or inadequate selfies involving wild animals.”
The issue is hardly native to Costa Rica. Tour operators around the world offer animal encounters, such as Airbnb. The home rental platform collaborated with animal advocacy organization World Animal Protection for its Animal Experiences travel category, which prohibits elephant rides and big cat interactions.
Costa Rica sees more than 1.7 million tourists every year, and ecotourism, which aims to support conservation efforts and promote wildlife observation, is a large source of income and jobs for the country.