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.

Credit: giajurado / Instagram

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. 

Credit: zoovarta / Instagram

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.

Credit: saltyyrose / Instagram

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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