Many videos and photos of wild animals become viral on the Internet. Although they may seem cute and cuddly or funny, you must resist temptation and not like, share or comment them. There are many reasons why this is not a good idea, not only because those individuals could actually be mistreated in order to take a picture, but also because it can threaten the welfare and conservation of their species. We have seen some of these reasons in part one, and here are some more.
- Wild animals that grow and live in households with people that are not experts can suffer health issues. Many owners do not know how to care for them. They are often given inappropriate food, which will cause deformities to their bone structure and other physiological issues. They become unable to perform natural behaviors because their wings were clipped or were declawed and they were not provided with species-specific enrichment. They can become blind because forced to be awake during the day, although they are nocturnal and should naturally be awake during the night. Many times, they can become aggressive as they age, and are therefore are abandoned or killed.
- Sharing images and videos of wild animals interacting with people in human contexts makes them erroneously perceived as domestic. Actually, domestication is not the same as taming. Domesticated animals have been selectively bred over thousands of generations to live along with humans and are, therefore, “instinctively” tolerant of people. Domesticated animals are bred to become companions, such as cats and dogs, to become food, such as farm animals, or employed for work, like horses and donkeys Domestic animals are genetically distinct from their wild counterparts. An individual wild animal, even if born in captivity, may be tamed, but remains genetically wild. This means that they could retain certain behaviors that may not make them suitable to live with humans and could also be dangerous. If depicted in those contexts, many people could understand that that it is safe to interact with wild animals.
- Cartoons and films such as Madagascar and Finding Nemo show animals that are anthropomorphized. To antrhopomorphize means to depict and animal or an object with human features and behaviors. In these films, animals talk, wear clothes, dance, sing and go to school, although in real life they certainily do not exhibit these behaviors. This twists the perception of their true nature. Once again, the message that is being conveyed is wrong because it teaches that wild animals are fun, cute, cuddly, and safe to interact with, which can make them percieved suitable as pets. Because children are the targets of these films, it is necessary to explain to them that the real behavior of wild animals is much different than what they see in fiction and educate them to respect animals and always be cautious around them.
- Feeding wild animals in their environment to catch a picture may seem like a friendly way to interact with them. Think again. It is never appropriate to give food to wild animals. First of all, what you are feeding them may not be suitable for their diet, and could make them sick, or worse, poison them. Second, animals, which should be naturally fearful of men, are lured to come close to people, driven by the smell of food. What happens is that animals will connect people with food and will want to get closer to them. This will expose them to dangers if they get to close to someone who does not have good intentions, such as hunters and poachers, or if they become themselves a danger for the community.
Before sharing a photo or a video with wild animals, social media users should make sure that they are not sending the message that it is ok to exploit them or interact with them in a way that could be dangerous. We have the responsibility of putting animals’ wellbeing before our amusement. If you want to help animals, do not pay to interact with them and do not lure them to come close to you. Observe them form a safe distance, be an ethical tourist, educate yourself and your friends, preserve their environment, donate to organizations who truly protect them.
Some photos are shown in this article to show readers what kind of popular animal interaction is bad for wildlife.
Find out how to be a responsible social media user:
The Wildlife Selfie Code – World Animal Protection
How to photograph wildlife ethically – National Geographic
Wildlife tourism – Wildlife Conservation Research Unit
Inappropriate videos on social media are hurting chimpanzees – Jane Goodall’s Good For All News
for Public Perceptions of Wild Animals – Preprints
A viral video and pet lemurs on Twitter – PLOS ONE
Domesticated animals, explained – National Geographic