Costa Rica is known for being home to some of the world’s most adorable animals. Unfortunately, an increasing number of tourists are now coming to Costa Rica in pursuit of social media photos of them posing with wild animals.
The Costa Rican government, civil society organizations, and tourism companies want tourists to think differently about taking a selfie with a wild animal on vacation. The World Travel & Tourism Council wrote on Twitter that the country “wants to become the first country to regulate the incidence of cruel or inadequate selfies involving wild animals.”
To raise awareness, the country has launched a new #stopanimalselfies campaign complete with website. The Stop Animal Selfies website lists the regulations in the country related to biodiversity and wildlife preservation, including that wild animal contact with tourists, volunteers or visitors is prohibited.
The website also has a guide with tips on how to safely take photos of animals. Travelers can join the #stopanimalselfies campaign by taking pictures with stuffed or toy animals and writing “I don’t harm wild animals for a selfie” as the caption, along with the hashtag.
Handling wild animals can have many negative consequences. Touching or restraining wild animals for a photo can cause the animals stress, as many of them are not used to humans being present. The animal may choose to defend themselves, attacking and biting those they deem a threat. There is also the risk of disease transference, both animals catching them from people or humans from animals.
Costa Rica, which sees more than 1.7 million tourists every year, has embraced ecotourism, which aims to support conservation efforts and promote wildlife observation. In 2019, Costa Rica was awarded a United Nations Champions of the Earth honor, which is the organization’s highest environmental commendation.
Ecotourism has now become a large source of income and jobs for the country. Pamela Castillo, Vice Minister of Costa Rican Ministry of Environment and Energy, said in a statement, “Our goal and responsibility as global leaders in environmental issues is to educate and encourage new world ambassadors committed to wildlife protection.”