'It's Stupid 101': Think twice before snapping a wildlife selfie, says Edmonton photographer
'If you're taking a selfie and an animal attacks you, that's kind of Darwin's Law in effect'
Greg Harvey has little pity for humans harmed in the creation of "wildlife selfies."
The Edmonton-based photographer says a growing compulsion to capture coveted photographs with untamed creatures is dangerous for the animals on both sides of the lens.
"I don't intend to be disrespectful or mean, but if you're taking a selfie and an animal attacks you, that's kind of Darwin's Law in effect," Harvey said in an interview with CBC Edmonton's Radio Active.
"You're not in a zoo, there isn't a chain link fence between you. They're hungry, you're flesh.
Whether it's cuddling with a sloth or swimming with dolphins, there are millions of wildlife selfies to be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — and it's a trend that appears to be growing.
A recent report from World Animal Protection (formerly World Society for the Protection of Animals) said Instagram has seen a 292-per-cent increase in wildlife selfies around the world since 2014.
Of these, more than 40 per cent involved humans "hugging or inappropriately interacting with a wild animal."
The group, which investigated operators in Latin America, said that the tourism industry's growing fascination with photographs of exotic animals has an ugly side.
"Behind the scenes, these animals are often beaten into submission, taken from their mothers as babies and secretly kept in filthy, cramped conditions or repeatedly baited with food that can have a long-term negative impact on their biology and behaviour," the group said.
Harvey, who has led tourists on photography tours in southern France, Alaska and Kenya, said Canada has its own selfie problems.
Predators who become habituated to humans will be destroyed. A cute photograph isn't worth it, he said.
"Any time you have your back to a predator, it will encourage the predator to attack," said Harvey.
"Even if its not hungry, just instinctively, that's what they want to do, so you turn your back to a predator, that's just Stupid 101."
"And if she does anything, she gets puts down and then her cubs die."
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Harvey said most of the worst offenders are not ill-intentioned but just uninformed tourists who don't think about consequences.
"Some people are coming from cities of 30 million people and they've never been outside a city before, so they don't know. They think it's like a zoo and the animals are tame.
There is a safe way to capture images of wild animals, Harvey said. Always stay in your vehicle, and rely on the expertise of qualified guides to help you safely interact with wildlife.
And if you really want a better quality picture, said Harvey, keep your distance and invest in a longer lens.