A tourist takes a selfie with a captive primate.

The Wildlife Selfie Code

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The Amazon rainforest is famous for its diverse wildlife and the number of tourists who want to take selfies with its fascinating animals is rising fast. 

Sadly, this has led to the exploitation of sloths, caimans, pink river dolphins, anacondas, and many more animals, who belong in the wild. With their gentle, slow nature, and facial markings that give the impression they’re always smiling, sloths have become one of the main targets for people looking to use them for profit. Despite the increased popularity of sloth selfies across social media, few people consider the conditions these wild animals are in, or the disruption they can cause to their natural habitat when taking the photo.

Many people offering wildlife selfies in the Amazon search treetops for sloths to steal. These typically calm, gentle animals are snatched from their natural habitats, forced to live in noisy, chaotic environments, and repeatedly passed around from tourist to tourist. 

This has built an industry of animal tourism which is extremely dangerous and distressing for these wild animals.

Don’t be part of this ugly picture: make sure your wildlife selfies are cruelty-free.

The Suffering Behind Selfies

Most tourists who take photos with wildlife love animals. During once-in-a-lifetime trips to destinations like the Amazon, it’s understandable that people would want to take a selfie with a sloth for Facebook, or post a picture with a pink river dolphin on Instagram.

But if they knew about the suffering these wild animals endure for this type of photo opportunity, they’d put their phones and cameras away.

Amongst the 34 billion images posted by 700 million people on Instagram, our initial investigation showed there are tens of thousands of wild animal selfies. These photos capture a moment of shareable joy for people, but for many of them, the animals’ stress and suffering is left out of the frame.

Many people envy friends who post selfies of themselves hugging or holding wild animals, which sadly encourages more people to take their own photos.

Infographic of the terms of the Wildlife Selfie Code.

What is the Wildlife Selfie Code?

DON'T take a wildlife selfie if:

  • The animal is being held, hugged, or restrained
  • You're baiting the animal with food
  • The animal could harm you

DO take a wildlife selfie if: 

  • You can keep a safe distance from the animal
  • The animal is in their natural home
  • The animal is free to move and not captive
A graphic of two cell phones with do's and don'ts examples of selfies around wildlife.

Instagram’s Amazing Change

On December 4, 2017, after 250,000 animal lovers signed our Wildlife Selfie Code, Instagram launched a new ‘wildlife warning’ page.

When Instagram users search for hashtags like #koalaselfie, #elephantride, and #slothselfie, a message pops up, informing them about the animal suffering behind the photos.

This incredible acknowledgment of wild animals’ suffering from Instagram happened because of our supporters. It’s proof we should never underestimate the power of our voices.

If you’re going on a trip, remember the Wildlife Selfie Code. Only take photos if you’re a safe distance from an animal, they can move freely, and they’re in their natural home.