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The Harmful Effects of the Wildlife Selfie Craze

Young slothBy Sam Trull, Sloth Director/Co-Founder The Sloth Institute Costa Rica

Recently there has been a proliferation of wildlife selfies being posted on social media sites, with Instagram alone reporting an increase of 300%. And thankfully, there has been a huge response from the global community on the harm these selfies impose on wildlife. We get that some people just don’t realize that taking selfies with wildlife is simply not only harmful but unethical.

A recent video uncovered by the investigative work of “World Animal Protection” tells a horrific story. Trees are being chopped down and sloths are being ripped out of trees and are passed around from tourist to tourist as if they were a toy. These sloths are wild animals and show all the signs of being in stress when taken from their environment. An average tourist thinks that the sloths outstretched arms are a sign of the sloths posing when in fact it means they are in high stress mode.The Sloth Institute logo

There is no way these precious animals will survive very long in these conditions. Unfortunately, their survival isn’t important to those who are profiting from this trade. They can always go and steal another sloth from the jungle. It’s a vicious cycle full of suffering sloths and dwindling wild populations. Every day wild sloths are removed from their jungle homes for no reason other than to make money off of naive tourists. People who travel from faraway lands relish the opportunity to get close to and even touch a sloth! I get it. A well angled selfie gets many likes on social media and sloths are amazing. I work with them every single day and I never get tired of seeing their sweet faces. I never forget the honor and privilege it is to work so closely with them. But the only place I truly enjoy seeing them…is in the wild. The only ‘sloth selfie’ I will take is the one with my sloth necklace or a stuffed sloth.

Stuffed sloth selfieBut there is good news. There is something you can do about it! Just say NO to taking selfies with sloths or any wild animal on your travels. If no one is paying for this service, then it will no longer continue. And help educate your neighbor. The best wildlife photo opportunity is one where they are in their natural environment; shot from a distance. You can help save sloths just by saying no and by spreading this message. Be a responsible sloth/wildlife tourist and pledge your allegiance to this cause here:

Here are other ways you can be a responsible sloth tourist

Say no to sloth selfies. Being touched by humans creates extreme stress for sloths. Never pay to touch, hold, or take a photograph with a sloth.
Whisper in their presence. Loud noises are very stressful to sloths, please speak quietly in their presence.
Do not use flash photography when capturing a photo. Bright lights are blinding to sloths. Please take photos without using a flash.
Don’t loiter around them once you’ve had a good view of them. Sloths freeze when you stop nearby; move along so they can move along.
Do not spray bug spray or smoke near sloths. Sloths have very sensitive lungs, if you must use spray, apply away from the sloths.
Drive slowly and carefully. Sloths need a lot of time to cross a street. If necessary, pull over and let other vehicles know that one is crossing a street.
Support eco-friendly & local businesses. Sloths need trees, a healthy environment and clean water to survive. Anything you can do to help protect the planet, helps protect the sloths.

Together we can make a difference. #slothlove

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