5 Times People Ruined Animals' Lives for a Selfie

Animals want no parts of your photographs.

Photo Credit: YouTube

Bad ideas and selfies are like the peanut butter and jelly of our times. While trying to snap impressive self-portraits at wildly inopportune moments, some of the distracted and vain have accidentally driven off the road and plowed into a tree, walked backward off a dangerously high cliff, and been bitten by a rattlesnake who was not in the mood to be photographed. Over the last few years, almost 50 people have died in the act of taking selfies, generally while doing very dumb things like handling live grenades and dangling from skyscrapers. Some day in the distant future, people may erroneously conclude social media “likes” were redeemable for cash, so willing are people today to risk their lives for them.

But apparently, it’s not enough to jeopardize their own safety for bragging rights selfies—some insist on also risking the lives of innocent animals. These people bother wildlife who were just minding their own business, forcing them into photo sessions that the animal subjects couldn’t care less about. Animals mishandled for selfies can end up more than just annoyed. In far too many cases, the consequences of humans' selfie obsessions can actually be fatal.

So here’s a brief round up of people whose selfie aspirations have cost animals their lives, or irreparably damaged them. There are probably lots more where these came from, but only so many stories make the news. It should go without saying that animals aren’t accessories or props, and messing around with feral creatures potentially imperils the safety of everyone involved. In other words, don’t be like these jerks.

1. This guy who dragged a shark out of the ocean.

Local Florida TV anchor Ashleigh Walters captured this footage of a dude bro literally dragging a shark out of the ocean, pinning it down on the beach and then posing for photos with it. (Okay, so, strictly speaking this isn’t a selfie because other people snapped the pictures, but let’s not get hung up on technicalities.) 

After keeping the poor animal on dry land for more than a minute, one of the guy’s friends tried to return it to the water. As you can see in the video, the shark was so distressed it flopped around in the shallow waves, which actually washed it even further up onto the beach. Walters, who posted the video on her Facebook page, wrote that the shark was later “put farther into water after end of video. It did not resurface for several minutes.”

2. These people who might have killed this rare, endangered dolphin.

This video, which recently surfaced, appears to depict a dolphin being taken from the ocean, passed around among a mob of people who took selfies with it, then left for dead on the sand. Several news agencies reported that the endangered Franciscan dolphin—just 30,000 remain in the wild—died after all the mishandling, and the Argentine Wildlife Federation issued a statement urging people “to return these dolphins to the sea if one is found on the shore.” One witness later stated the dolphin was “already dead” by the time it was handed around by the crowd. A claim which, if true, is still pretty morbid.

3. These people who accidentally plucked out two peacocks’ feathers and scared them to literal death.

Visitors to the Yunnan Wild Animal Park in Kunming, China, apparently weren’t satisfied with a park policy allowing visitors to stroll among the peacocks and take pictures. Instead, the tourists in the photo below decided to pick them up and hold them tightly while taking pictures with them. The park says the "violent behavior" and tight grip of the tourists plucked the animals’ feathers out, and that the birds went into a state of shock that ultimately killed them.

4. This group who took selfies with a dying dolphin instead of getting it help.

What would you do if you came upon a beached, sickly dolphin? If you said “pull out my cellphone and start taking pictures with it,” you are not alone in being a human nightmare! In 2013, a group of tourists in the Hainan Province found an ill dolphin on the beach, and instead of calling authorities who could help, began taking selfies with it. Others on the scene reached out to wildlife rescue workers who attempted to save the animal, though it ultimately died. Experts think the dolphin may have been hit by a boat, which is why it was beached in the first place. In any case, having a bunch of people futzing with and taking snapshots of you as you lay dying definitely isn’t helping. Presumably, an annoyed observer took the picture below.

5. All the people who take selfies with cubs in Africa’s “lion parks.”

In this case, the selfie takers probably don’t realize they’re contributing to the cruel treatment thousands of endangered lion cubs endure for profiteering “lion park” owners. A World Animal Protection report documents how lion holding facilities take cubs as young as a few weeks old from their mothers so that paying tourists can touch, pick up and take selfies with them. In some cases, the report states, investigators “witnessed tourists being instructed to hit lion cubs, if they display aggressive and unwelcome behavior.”

The cubs are poorly fed, kept in terrible conditions, and endure tremendous stress because of constant human interaction and handling, which increases their chances of disease and infection. Young adults are trained to accompany tourists on “lion walks.” Once the lions are fully grown, and too aggressive for tourist handling, they’re euthanized or sold, in some cases to canned hunting facilities. “Canned hunting is where [the lions are] released into enclosure and it's very easy for the hunter to kill them,” WAP spokesperson Nicola Beynon told the Australian Broadcasting Commission. “They don't stand a chance."

In 2015, Spanish authorities took ownership of a lion cub who had been starved by the owners of a circus “to make sure it stayed small and cute for selfies with visitors.” The UK’s Mirror reports the owners, who kept the cub on a liquid diet, were charging people more than $20 a pop to take pictures with him. Magnus—that’s his name—has since been nursed back to health.

Don’t take selfies with lion cubs in captivity. It’s probably not a smart idea to try taking a selfie with a lion in the wild, either.

Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.

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