The AWCP is launching a zoo-based campaign this month, to help raise awareness of the detrimental effects of wildlife selfies, especially close-contact selfies with wild or captive animals.
Platforms such as Instagram host hundreds of thousands of wildlife selfies. Researchers at the World Animal Protection discovered a 292% increase in the number of wildlife selfies posted on Instagram between 2014 and 2017, with 40% of the images posted described as “bad selfies” – meaning someone hugging, holding or inappropriately interacting with a wild animal.
The AWCP has teamed up with the IUCN Primate Specialist Group - Section for Human Primate Interactions to create a campaign to raise awareness of this issue, especially to zoo visitors and also visitors to attractions like the Upper Rock, where the animals are semi-free ranging and the opportunity for close contact is there.
The normalisation of wildlife selfies is harming animals, not just causing physical and emotional stress, but also interrupting feeding and breeding habits and even potentially lowering birth rates. Conservationists working with the IUCN, raised the issue at a recent BIAZA AGM, urging zoos to think carefully about the impacts of visitor selfies with zoo animals on their wild counterparts.
The trouble with wildlife selfies is the images are often appearing without any context – so even if the message is promoting conservation or an ambassador programme or it is taken in a zoo or conservation management situation, that message is lost and all people see are someone hugging a wild animal..
The AWCP have decided to try to raise awareness of the issue with their visitors, both through use of fun props and also during any animal experiences held at the park. Using a series of hashtags and popular photo-booth-style props, dotted around the park and Gibraltar Upper Rock Nature Reserve, they are aiming to discourage selfies with animals by giving visitors the facts, but also offering a fun alternative and a way for people to further help the cause by using the hashtag to raise awareness.
The selfie-craze seems to be here to stay, it is infiltrating many areas of young peoples lives. Rather than condemning selfies, we will try to use this to our advantage, to spread awareness. The World Animal Protection Group have already been working with instagram to spread the word and halt damaging wildlife selfies. Hashtags with wildlife will be blocked and flash up information on the harm that irresponsible selfies can do. Other conservation groups are running similar campaigns to stop wild selfies but until there is more awareness and context given to selfies with captive animals, these conservationist fear the situation will worsen. here's where we come in.
Gibraltar summer students at the AWCP have this year have been carrying out surveys and questionnaires with visitord to the AWCp and the UpperRock to gauge just how serious the issue is, before inserting the educational props. The initial findings were quite telling, especially for the Upper Rock. Visitors to the wildlife conservation park however, tended to have a more sensible and sensitive approach towards the animals.
This further drives home the need for stricter policies on the Upper Rock and education of visitors. Although Gibraltar macaques are generally able to choose their interactive ‘victims’ and are free to move away. In Morocco a very different scene..one that is more than likely enhanced by this selfie obsession and free contact with Gibraltar macaques.
Visitors to the park and Upper Rock will be encouraged to resist the temptation take selfies only with the booth and also to utilise the hashtag SelfieAware and SelfieSelflessly
There is an inate desire in all of us to connect to nature. wildlife parks and zoos across the world help people to reconnect with wildlife in a safe and accessible arena, helping to spread awareness and the conservation message. But the wildlife selfie craze has run amock and is a risk to wildlife and conservation efforts. Zoos can help to raise awareness of this issue by educating and raising awareness both at their zoo and online.
Keepers can also help by using the hashtags and also being more careful about how they represent their animals on social media.
Find out more on our Facebook page or Instagram. Join in by adding our Facebook photo frame or come to the park and take a selfie with our fun photo prop frame!