Instagram has decided to put its foot down at last by creating a warning message that will pop up when certain hashtags are searched, particularly those related to exotic wildlife selfies.
This follows growing reports of animals that are captured from the wild simply to become tourist attractions for those seeking cute photos. Yes, that’s right, if you have friends who can’t help but pick up a cute furry sloth every time they travel, chances are the animal is probably distressed due to being carried around and held by multiple strangers every day.
In places like Mexico and Thailand, lions and tigers are big attractions, but this has become hugely controversial in recent times as it seems these animals are drugged up to keep them weak and drowsy so they can't attack visitors. Whilst some may think the animals are being looked after, the reality is they’re being abused.
So exactly how will Instagram help fight the suffering of these animals? Well, if you search for hashtags such as “#TigerSelfie”, “#MonkeySelfie”, or even “#SlothSelfie”, along with other keywords that have not been announced, a message from Instagram will appear that says the hashtag could be affiliated with the harmful treatment of animals.
The “Protect Wildlife on Instagram” message, which will appear when grammers search the hashtags, also contains links to wildlife charities fighting the issue to help users fully understand what the endangered animals are put through. Meanwhile, hashtags related to the exotic pet trade will also be flagged, such as #exoticanimalforsale.
In October this year, it was reported that eco-tourism companies were part of the problem, purposely removing animals from the wild and encouraging tourists to take photos with them. Investigators flew to Brazil and Peru, where they witnessed animals like crocodiles and sloths suffering a great deal, all thanks to the wildlife selfie trade.
With the rise of the wildlife selfie trend, having your picture taken with a sloth or monkey might seem like the norm to those unaware of the cruelty that these animals all over the world face. According to World Animal Protection, animal selfies publicly posted on Instagram have increased by 292 since 2014.
Emily Cain, a spokesperson for Instagram, told National Geographic that she believes it’s vital for Instagram users to be aware of the problem. “We’re trying to do our part to educate them,” she shared. “We care about our community, including the animals and the wildlife that are an important part of the platform.”