Wild animals are not Instagram props. How is this not sinking in?

Video by MWN

It’s just not sinking in.

Wild animals are not photo props.

And yet the pictures keep pouring.

Over in Chile, two women came across a 20-metre blue whale washed up on the shore in a town near Punta Arenas.

Seeing such a magnificent, endangered creature dead on the sand is a devastating sight. One deserving of grief and respect. But these women decided it was a prime photo opportunity.

They perched themselves on top of the whale, and posed for a photo for Instagram.

Gabriela Garrido, a researcher at the Museum of Natural History Río Seco, told local newspaper La Nación that she saw about 50 people clambering on the whale to take photos of themselves with its corpse.

“I was shocked to see this situation of lack of control… I had a lot of anger, a lot of impotence,” Garrido said.

Barriers were later set up around the animal’s body by the Chilean navy – but not before someone managed to carve letters into its skin.

It’s nauseating. And it propelled a story from a small town in South America to become international news, drawing understandable anger from people around the world.

PETA spokeswoman Emma Hurst told Mamamia the behaviour promoted a disregard for life.

“Photos such as this are designed for shock value and show a tremendous lack of respect for animals. There’s sadness, not humour, in the death of others,” Hurst said.

“With boundless humane opportunities for amusement, it speaks volumes that such people get a thrill from mocking the death of such highly intelligent animals.”

What is even more frustrating is that this is only the latest in a long series of incidents in which humans transform into jerks in their quest to achieve the edgiest Instagram selfie.

In August last year, a baby dolphin died after it was found by tourists in Spain. Its weak and wriggling body was passed around for selfies until it couldn’t survive any longer.

The same thing happened to a dolphin calf a year earlier in Argentina. After travellers took their photos, the dolphin had served its purpose. They left its tiny body on the sand and wiped their hands.

There was also a struggling shark that was pulled from the water by a man in Florida who was determined to pin it down for a photo. It’s not known if it survived.

These are incidents involving animals that live in the wild. When you then step back and look at the enormous wildlife tourism industry, where the suffering of at least 550,000 animals is being supported by 110 million people each year – many of whom are not aware of the abuse involved in making possible many of the elephant rides and tiger patting – that’s when you realise how far-reaching our obsession with animal selfies is.

Sharing life moments on social media is usually about drawing validation, jealousy and admiration from friends and family. But photos are no longer just harmless fun when it entails hurting and disrespecting other creatures.

Our society is more snap-happy than it ever was. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a responsibility to make thoughtful, considered choices.

Because there is something very wrong when we are allowing the death of an animal to become just another cool Insta pic in a feed full of fitspo, funky laneways and cocktails.

So. Repeat after me: Wild animals are not photo props.

Because really, it’s a no brainer.

What do you think of tourists taking photos with wild animals? Tell us in the comments below.

You can follow Sophie Aubrey on Twitter.

LISTEN: The Mamamia Out Loud team confess the embarrassing things we do on Instagram to impress our following.

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