‘Selfie’ seeking sightseers strike again

  • Written by  Lauren James
  • Published in Wildlife
A dolphin calf A dolphin calf Shutterstock/Havoc
24 Aug
Dismay as a Spanish baby dolphin becomes the latest victim of the quest for ‘the perfect selfie’

The accidental death of stranded animals at the hands of ignorant holidaymakers is sadly not a new phenomenon. Instead it has become increasingly commonplace that wild animals are made vulnerable to tourists’ quests for ‘the perfect selfie’. A number of deaths of wild animals are being reported in popular holiday destinations around the world every year.

The dangers of the modern ‘selfie’ craze are dramatically underscored by the 50 per cent increase in human deaths attributed to ‘dangerous selfies’ that occurred between 2015 and 2016. Individuals are going to new lengths to get the perfect shot, not just putting themselves in danger, but also the lives of some of the world’s most endangered species.

The quest for the ‘cute selfie’ or a few ‘likes’ has fuelled a grim market for exploitation and cruelty around the world

The most recent animal mistreatment occurred on the Spanish coast of Almeria when a baby dolphin was found dead on the beach at Mojácar on 11 August 2017. After becoming stranded on the busy sands, hundreds of tourists were reported to have flocked straight to the dolphin. Equinac, a local environmental group in the Mojácar area, stated that the dolphin initially became stranded due to either an underlying illness or the loss of its mother. However, the eventual death was caused by ‘selfish humans, the most irrational species that exists,’ said Equinac in a passionate statement. The ‘harassing, manipulating, crowding over and taking pictures’ caused the animal, which is highly susceptible to shock, to go into a stress-induced cardiorespiratory failure. It had been reported that the calf had been passed around from one tourist to another to capture their holiday images.

Unfortunately the death of this baby dolphin is not unique. Elisa Allen, UK Director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), suggests that ‘this incident is just the latest tragic incident in a growing list of animal selfie fatalities’. In February 2016, on the coast of Santa Teresita, a tourist hotspot in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the death of the endangered La Plata dolphin was caused when photograph-hungry tourists kept the animal out of the water. A similar incident occurred a year later, also in Argentina. Dolphins are not the only species to fall victim to posing tourists in the last five years. In 2015 in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, sea turtles had their egg-laying routine ruined and were physically battered by happy snapping holidaymakers.

Tourists taking photos of sea turtles (Image: Shutterstock)Tourists taking photos of sea turtles (Image: Shutterstock)

Increases in the tourism trade have enhanced this problem further. Some companies are benefiting economically from the mistreatment of wild animals. ‘The quest for the “cute selfie” or a few “likes” has fuelled a grim market for exploitation and cruelty around the world,’ says Allen. ‘Zoos, marine parks, and pseudo-sanctuaries breed animals so that the babies can be used as photo props – they’re taken away from their mothers when they’re just days old in order to acclimate them to handling so that they can be passed from one stranger to another. These vulnerable infants are often made to work all day long without adequate food, water, or rest – and when they’ve grown too big to be used as props, they’re shipped off to appalling roadside zoos, slaughtered for meat, or used as targets in canned hunts.’

The numbers of deaths of various animal species in tourist hotspots are increasing every year as support for the selfie trend is ever increasing. A study into the effect of media on the public perception of chimpanzees, showed that the portrayal of chimpanzees in unnatural, human-like situations may have a negative effect on the public’s understanding of their endangered status in the wild by making them appear less dangerous.

More often than not, these photos take advantage of beautiful creatures that have been torn from their natural environment. Wild animals deserve to live in the wild

Repeated cases have encouraged a growing awareness of this issue and worldwide, efforts are being made to reduce the exploitation of animals. In 2010, the travel company TUI Netherlands became the first operator to stop all ticket sales to holiday venues offering elephant rides for tourists. Since then, 160 other companies have followed suit. In October 2016, TripAdvisor launched its ‘no touching of wild animals’ policy in which it stopped the ticket sales to attractions where people came into physical contact with captive, wild or endangered animals. Following an appeal from PETA Australia, the dating app, Tinder, released a #NoTigerSelfies hashtag campaign. In a statement released by Tinder, it urged its users to take down their tiger selfies: ‘More often than not, these photos take advantage of beautiful creatures that have been torn from their natural environment. Wild animals deserve to live in the wild.’

‘If you’re lucky enough to see an animal in the wild, revel in the watching, not the touching,’ urges PETA’s Allen. ‘If you see somewhere offering photo opportunities with animals, refuse to buy a ticket. Simply doing this – and encouraging others to do the same – is the best way to help animals who are being exploited.’

red line


Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to our free weekly newsletter!

red line

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.


Subscribe Today


Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester




Travel the Unknown


Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Air That We Breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    The Nuclear Power Struggle
    The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn on government policy from just two years ago. Yet this seems to be going against the grain globa...
    REDD+ or Dead?
    The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme, under which developing nations would be paid not to cut dow...


NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...


November is a dark, quiet month, but it also marks…


Could human waste one day be fuelling our homes and…


Every year, the LPOTY awards celebrate the best in Britain’s…


At the 23rd Convention of the Parties (COP) climate change…


Knowing where past coral reefs existed is a crucial component…


Numerous low-lying Pacific islands have disappeared under rising seas


In this exclusive film for Geographical, see how an unusually…


Marco Magrini considers why the recent devastation caused by hurricanes…


Country borders are some of the most controlled environments on…


Nature reserves and protected areas in Germany have lost 76…


An investigation into shark fins and ray gills sold in…


Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…


The rapid spread of Asian hornets is likely to make…


Europe provides more than €112billion (£97billion) in subsidies to fossil…


A study of various fish populations has found dramatic reductions…


The seasonal changes of September promise much photographic potential for…


Shipping traffic can increase lightning strikes, according to a pioneering…


New documentary travels to remote Antarctica to unpack the complex…


The deaths of these majestic creatures had remained an unsolved…


Over a two-year period, a new species of plant or…