Last week, a baby dolphin died after being dragged from his or her ocean home and passed around for selfies by a crowd of eager tourists. The horrifying scene took place on a beach in Argentina and was documented on social media, sparking international outrage, and many people called for criminal charges to be brought against those responsible.
— ABC News (@abcnews) February 18, 2016
Reports indicate that after the photos were taken, the animal’s body was unceremoniously discarded on the beach. The baby dolphin had apparently served his or her purpose, since the selfies had already been taken.Because of the callousness of this incident, you might think of it as an isolated event, fueled by a sort of mob mentality and misguided excitement over seeing a rare animal. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.
Days later, in a different part of the world, a similar video surfaced of a man pulling a struggling shark from the ocean in Florida and pinning down the resistant animal while smiling for a photo. After he releases the shark, you can see the disoriented animal thrashing near the shore, unable to swim away or perhaps too traumatized by the incident to know what to do next. It is unclear whether the shark ultimately survived the encounter.
But animals suffering for photo ops is nothing new.
Baby tigers at the Tiger Temple in Thailand, for example, are often ripped from their mothers shortly after birth and subjected to extreme stress, and some are even physically abused, as money-hungry animal exhibitors force them to pose with smiling tourists. Once the tigers are no longer babies and become too large and dangerous to pose for pictures, they are typically shipped off to other roadside zoos and forgotten.
“Swim-with-dolphins” attractions are no better, as the animals are denied everything that is natural and important to them and forced to swim in claustrophobic pools. They often die prematurely. Just because dolphins always look like they’re smiling does not mean that they are actually happy and want to pose for your pictures.
Remember: Animals are not our selfie props. If there’s any risk that your photo is going to hurt or stress an animal, it’s not worth it.
What You Can Do
Never patronize any place that profits from exploiting animals, and leave wildlife in peace.