Things That Matter

This Is Why It’s Not A Good Idea To Take A Selfie With Wild Animals In Costa Rica

When you think of Costa Rica, what do you think of? Maybe its volcanoes? Or possibly its luxurious beaches? Or maybe just the fact that it’s home to some of the happiest people on the planet? Well, now you’ll know Costa Rica for something else: its animal conservation efforts. How, you ask? Through discouraging tourist selfies with wild animals.

Warning: there are some confronting animal selfies below – so best avoid reading further if you don’t want to see them.

Costa Rica is the leader when it comes to public consciousness around selfies with animals.

Instagram / @consoglobe

While it’s common to see a polite sign here and there in tourist spots asking visitors to be respectful of animals, the Costa Rica Tourism Institute has now gone another step further by launching a social media campaign against the practice of taking selfies with wild animals. We probably shouldn’t be surprised – with 20 national parks, in addition to a bunch of reserves, animal refuges and protected areas, 26 percent of Costa Rica’s land is protected in the name of conservation. It only seems natural that Costa Rica would also pioneer a campaign on Insta under the simple hashtag #stopanimalselfies.

Chances are you’re probably, like us, wondering why the campaign isn’t using a Spanish hashtag.

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The Costa Rican government are one step ahead: they know that the main offenders chasing wild animal selfies are English-speaking tourists, so they’re largely focusing their efforts on communicating with said English-speaking tourists.

“Our visitors must know the negative impact caused by selfies and photos showing direct contact with wild animals. Our goal and responsibility as global leaders in environmental issues is to educate and encourage new world ambassadors committed to wildlife protection,” said the Vice Minister of Costa Rican Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE), Pamela Castillo, when asked about the initiative in an interview with CNN Travel.

It’s worth knowing that there are quite a number of reasons to refrain from taking selfies with wild animals. 

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The first, and biggest, reason to not take selfies with wild animals is that, because they’re not tame animals, they’ll likely freak out if you try to get close up and personal with them. Wild animals definitely don’t understand what the heck a selfie is, and trying to take one with them will likely endanger both you and the animal. Who’s to say that the wild animal won’t try to land a scratch on someone trying to get a selfie with it – and that person won’t try to defend themselves? And who’s to say that such a scratch won’t become infected? It’s a much better time on your vacation if you don’t get an infection.

Another thing to think about is that interaction with humans that really mess up a wild animal’s life.

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For starters, it may scare the animals away from their natural habitat, which essentially risks scaring them away from reliable food sources and a safe environment. Traumatized animals may have trouble having babies – which can cause a decline in the animal population. These are all things we definitely want to avoid. Especially since Costa Rica is home to some species that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

Some people use the opportunity to make money at the expense of animals’ well-being.

Credit: da_cherry_bomb / Instagram

Possibly the worst thing to come out of the taking-selfies-with-wild-animals trend is that there are some less scrupulous humans who see it as a potential source of income. Yes, that means that they charge to get people up close and personal with unique animals. This doesn’t necessarily mean that these animals are well-cared for, or even tame, for that matter. They’re just kept in captivity for a quick buck. Yikes.

The good news is that there are alternatives available.

Credit: juan
Instagram / @juanvainasychibolo

Just because you can’t take a selfie with a wild animal doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get a photo with them. Animal rights group World Animal Protection has said that it’s a-OK to take a “selfie” with wild animals if you’re a safe distance from them. Think along the lines of a photo where you look like you’re photobombing from the front. Another two things that World Animal Protection has stipulated make for an ethical wildlife photo-taking are pictures where the animal is in its natural home, and is free to move. Basically, snaps of animals in the wild, undisturbed, just doing their thing, are totally fine.

On the other hand, the Costa Rican Tourism Institute has also offered alternatives to selfies with wild animals

Instagram / @jerryntaz

Juan Santamaría International Airport currently has a setup where you can take cute selfies with plushies. Not only will this mean that you can contribute to the movement of people avoiding animal exploitation, joining an ethical movement will also do so much more for your social media clout anyways.

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Anti-Mask Tourists Are Traveling To Puerto Rico And The Island’s Residents Have Had Enough

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Anti-Mask Tourists Are Traveling To Puerto Rico And The Island’s Residents Have Had Enough

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Despite the pandemic that began impacting travel as far back as February, tourists never stopped coming to Puerto Rico. The island’s government has never restricted travel to/from the island and that has come at the cost of local health care systems and the safety and health of local residents.

This means that delusional anti-maskers from the mainland have been able to visit the island, disregard local rules regarding social distancing and face coverings, and put locals at risk. Now, as the island grapples with an explosion of Covid-19 cases, many locals are demanding the island shut down to nonessential travel.

Protesters in Puerto Rico are calling for an end to irresponsible tourism from the mainland.

In Puerto Rico, protesters have been calling for San Juan’s International Airport to shut down all nonessential travel, as tourists continue to vacation on the island despite rising Covid-19 cases and are often seen not wearing masks or practicing social distancing.

Ricardo Santos, who organized a protest and is a member of the Socialist Workers Movement, told Democracy Now: “We’re not backing down. We’re going to continue this caravan and this struggle, because this is a life-or-death situation, and this governor has not been addressing this issue. So, as we’ve done in the past, the people are going to take matters into their own hands.”

The move comes as many locals say that tourists come to the island with certain attitudes and disrespect local rules.

Whether it’s because they believe in silly conspiracy theories or complain that it’s ‘too hot’ to wear a mask, tourists without masks have arrived in droves to the island – where many locals see them as an extension of a long history of brutal colonialism. Many tourists to the island have little to no regard for the health or well-being of those who call the island home and they’re even less conscious of the fact that the island’s health care system is still in shambles since Hurricane Maria.

Although face masks are technically required in all public areas, few tourists seem to follow the guidelines. In fact, a fine of up to $5,000 can be slapped on anyone who isn’t wearing a covering on their mouth and nose. Not only are many tourists ignoring the rule, it’s often leading to violent confrontations.

A few weeks ago, a group of women visiting San Juan’s biggest mall allegedly retaliated against a Zara employee’s request that they wear masks by damaging at least $2,000 in merchandise.

Later in July, a man – a resident of the island but from the mainland – spat in the face of a grocery store worker who asked him to put on a mask.  In a video circulating online, the man said a security guard retaliated by hitting him with a golf club. The following day, a woman was reportedly physically struck after refusing to wear a mask in La Perla, the historic neighborhood that runs alongside Old San Juan, which has become a tourist destination since the 2017 video for Justin Bieber’s remix of Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s runaway hit “Despacito” was filmed there.

Many local workers who serve the tourist economy said that visitors are irritated by the mandatory touchless temperature scan and hand sanitation policy. 

“They have attitudes when they get here,” one worker told the Daily Beast. “One said she was going to ‘die of retardation’ for taking her temperature. Another complained about the sanitizer: They said, ‘Ew, what is that?’” 

Tourism is big business for Puerto Rico – but many say now is not the time.

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Tourism in Puerto Rico is a $1.8 billion industry annually, and though the island never closed its borders, officials had announced a formal “reopening” date of July 15, when visitors were welcome to return. But thanks to rising cases of Covid-19, that ‘reopening’ date has since been pushed back a month to August 15.

To help facilitate the reopening, a new order will require all visitors show a negative Covid-19 test at the airport in order to enter the island, or be tested voluntarily at the airport by a National Guard team. The curfew, which was previously set to end on June 22, is still in place from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. every night. 

But for residents, none of this makes sense. Police have threatened Puerto Ricans with exorbitant fines and even arrest for being out past curfew. Alleyways that would usually be teeming with people dancing to live salsa were barren. Yet locals continue to see tourists step out the door of their Airbnb, hand in hand, no mask, to take in a sunset or grab something to eat. Locals feel like they’re on lockdown while visitors are on a worry free vacation.

Like many places across the U.S., Puerto Rico has been hit hard by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Credit: Ricardo Arduengo / Getty Images

As of July 29, the island has seen more than 16,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 211 people have died of the virus. These numbers have been rising in recent weeks as

Puerto Rico was initially praised for being one of the first U.S. jurisdictions to put drastic measures in place, such as implementing an islandwide curfew and banning cruise ships, as well as closing schools and all nonessential businesses, to avoid overwhelming the island’s fragile health care system in March.

But a recent surge in COVID-19 cases has coincided with Puerto Rico’s efforts to reopen nonessential businesses and tourist attractions. Over the past week, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases jumped by more than 1,000, while the number of probable cases increased by almost 1,300.

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Mexico Plans To Reopen Cancun To International Tourists But It’s Not At All Prepared For Visitors

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Mexico Plans To Reopen Cancun To International Tourists But It’s Not At All Prepared For Visitors

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There are millions of people just itching for a vacation right now, and Cancun wants to welcome visitors with open arms. However, there’s a huge problem with their plan. Most of the country is still in a severe phase of the pandemic – with all 32 states reporting daily increases in confirmed Covid-19 cases.

In cities such as Guadalajara and Mexico City, even locals aren’t allowed to venture far from their homes and restrictions on shopping, dining, and exercising are still in full force.

However, the country’s president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), has resumed his cross-country travels and is trying to portray a ‘new normal’ – the problem is little has changed to prevent further outbreaks.

Cancun is aiming to open its doors to tourists from June 10 – but it makes zero sense given the actual situation on the ground.

Quintana Roo, home to the famed beaches of Cancun and Tulum, will resume activities next week – according to the governor, Carlos Joaquin Gonzalez. The state, which depends heavily on tourism, has lost over 83,000 jobs in the last few months due to the pandemic, and with reopening the state could see an economic rebound. However, that entirely depends on the success and implementation of safety measures.

In a press conference, the governor said that tourists could start arriving in the Caribbean destination as soon as June 8th. He added that tourism is an essential activity and that there is no other of greater importance in Quintana Roo “and we are going to fight for it to be considered that way.”

He stressed during the public address that for the opening to happen by June 10th, protocols and hygiene measures must be followed to protect workers and tourists from Covid-19.

And he has good reason to reopen. According to a new survey by Expedia, ‘Cancun flights’ is one of the top 5 searches on the platform. In the same survey, Playa del Carmen, Cancun and Isla Mujeres (all located in Quintana Roo) were announced as three of the most internationally sought after destinations.

Meanwhile, AMLO has launched a cross-country tour touting the lifting of Coronavirus restrictions.

Credit: Rebecca Blackwell / Getty

President AMLO also held his daily press conference from the state of Quintana Roo to mark the beginning of Mexico’s economic reopening and resume his tours across the country.

But this too makes zero sense. Yes, the government has mandated that states can begin lifting restrictions – if they’re no longer declared ‘red zones.’ However, every state in the country is still in the red, with many seeing peak infection numbers.

It’s just the most recent example of confusing messaging from the president.

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While AMLO is eager to get the country reopened and put Mexicans back to work, Coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country. Mexico has now recorded the seventh-highest number of Covid-19 deaths in the world, according to the Johns Hopkins tracker, with nearly 10,000 virus-related fatalities and almost 100,000 confirmed cases. Testing in the country is low and health officials acknowledge that the numbers are likely much higher.

The federal government unveiled a red-light/green-light system to implement reopening procedures state by state. But currently every state is still in ‘red-light’ phase – meaning stay-at-home orders are still in full effect – making AMLO’s messaging extremely confusing.

Time and time again, the president has downplayed the virus outbreak and has criticized stay-at-home orders for harming the economy.

Keep in mind, however, that non-essential travel between the U.S. and Mexico is still largely banned.

Since March, all non-essential travel has been banned between the U.S. and Mexico. However, that ban is currently set to expire on June 22. It’s possible both sides could extend the travel ban, but given AMLO’s rhetoric it isn’t likely he’ll keep the country closed to tourists for much longer.

However, it’s important to point that out even if you technically can travel – right now you really shouldn’t. In much of Mexico, confirmed Covid-19 cases are on the rise with many cities across the country just now entering it’s worst phase.

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