A handful of weeks ago, Instagram joined the global movement against tourist attractions that exploit animals with their new wildlife warning system.
Now, when any of the app’s over 800 million active users searches for or clicks on a number of animal attraction-related hashtags, a pop-up message appears that reads: “Animal abuse and the sale of endangered animals or their parts are not allowed on Instagram. You are searching for a hashtag that may be associated with posts that encourage harmful behavior to animals or the environment.” Users are then prompted to cancel the search, learn more, or go to the animal posts anyway.
If users choose to learn more, they are led to a page on wildlife exploitation that asks them to consider the circumstances under which animal photos have been taken and whether the creatures may have been “smuggled, poached or abused for the sake of pictures. For example, be wary when paying for photo opportunities with exotic animals, as these photos and videos may put endangered animals at risk.”
Instagram has not disclosed a full list of the hashtags that will prompt the warning since they want people to find them organically, but among the tags that will bring you to the message are #dolphinkiss, #koalaselfie, #elephantride, #elephantselfie, #tigerselfie, #slothselfie, #quokkaselfie, #carvedivory, and #exoticanimalforsale.”
In a blog post, Instagram said that they hope to educate users on the issue rather than shame them. They also hope to “encourage everyone to be thoughtful about interactions with wild animals and the environment to help avoid exploitation and to report any photos and videos you may see that may violate our community guidelines.”
In Thailand, where the elephant is the beloved national symbol of the country, abuse is rampant as countless attractions have sprung up to meet the demand of tourists that want to ride, wash, play with, and take photos with pachyderms.