Monday, 10 December, 2018

Instagram Fights Wildlife Exploitation with New Hashtag Warnings

Image via Getty Image via Getty
Theresa Hayes | 05 December, 2017, 23:50

Instagram will start issuing warnings on selfies with the adorable Australian marsupial and other wild animals - with animal-cruelty cautions appearing when users search or click on hashtags including #koalaselfie, #lionselfie or #tigerpet as of Tuesday, National Geographic reports. More than 3,000 posts with #koalaselfie already exist on the platform, but Instagram won't be banning the photos. You'll see if when viewing these flagged hashtags, but users posting photos under the same hashtags will not receive the warning.

"You are searching for a hashtag that may be associated with posts that encourage harmful behavior to animals or to the environment", the warning reads in part, alongside a link to more information about wildlife exploitation. But the warnings will only appear if you use specific hashtags. "Be wary when paying for photo opportunities with exotic animals, as these photos and videos may put endangered animals at risk".

Instagram's decision to post warnings on certain wildlife hashtags was made after World Animal Protection approached the social network with research showing a 292 per cent increase in the number of selfies with wild animals posted since 2014, according to the animal welfare non-profit.

Instagram doesn't plan on revealing all of the hashtags associated with the message so that users can stumble upon it during their searches.

Wildlife selfies on social media is a growing phenomenon.

A stranded baby dolphin washed up on a beach in Spain famously died of dehydration in August after crowds descended to touch it and take pictures. "We are encouraged by this first step towards changing the acceptability of using animals for our entertainment", said Cassandra Koenen, Head of Wildlife Campaigns at World Animal Protection. "I think it's important for the community right now to be more aware". More often than not, these photos take advantage of handsome creatures that have been torn from their natural environment.

Celebrities including socialite Paris Hilton and reality start Khloe Kardashian have been roundly criticised for posing for pictures with chimpanzees and orangutans at private zoos by the UN's Great Apes Survival Partnership, who branded them "chumps with chimps" a year ago. "We're trying to do our part to educate them". He often sticks his arm into their mouths during photos, and treats them as status symbols.