The trend of animal selfies is bigger than ever before. But a new study from World Animal Protection has found that they are extremely damaging to sloth welfare.
Sloth Selfies: The Dangers
According to the charity, World Animal Protection, sloths used for tourist photos are often ‘stolen’ from their natural habitats as babies. This is due to the high demand for photos from tourists who proceed to post the images on social media, normalising the behaviour.
The sloth babies are then kept in squalid conditions, and many are beaten into submission until they pose for photos.
As quiet animals, sloths need peace and calm to thrive. Being trapped in an environment with noise, humans and unwanted contact causes them incredibly high levels of anxiety and stress. Combining this with a poor diet and cruel treatment, World Animal Protection found that most of these sloths do not survive for more than six months.
“Sloths do not want a hug”
The investigation, which took place across two cities in the Amazon (Manaus and Puerto Alegria), revealed that tour companies often actively encourage tourists to hold and touch wild animals, which is detrimental to their well-being.
Some sloths are even tied to trees with rope, where they hang until the next tourist arrives. Sloths here were found to rest only 2% of the time as opposed to up to 56% in the wild.
What you can do
Social media plays a big part in the demand for sloth and other wildlife selfies. World Animal Protection condemns unethical wildlife photos posted by celebrities on platforms such as Instagram. Such images suggest to their followers that the photos are acceptable.
Here are the charity’s tips for responsible wildlife photography:
"A 'bad' wildlife selfie is an image or post in which a wild animal is being held, touched, restrained or baited for the purpose of being a photo prop."
"A 'good' wildlife selfie is where any image or post of a wild animal in which there was no direct human contact and the animal was not being restrained or in captivity to be used as a photo prop."
Source: World Animal Protection
Photo credits: World Animal Protection
Did you know about how dangerous sloth selfies are?