Dolphin calf dies after tourists use it for selfies

Pictures shared by an Argentinean animal rights organization show a mob of tourists passing around a dolphin calf while swarming to take photos with it. The animal reportedly overheated and died.

Footage of tourists mobbing a rare baby dolphin to take photos with it ignites worldwide rage

Pictures shared by Argentinean animal rights organization Fundación Vida Silvestre show a mob of tourists passing around a dolphin calf to take photos with it. The animal reportedly overheated and died. (Hernan Coria/Facebook)

There isn't much that humans won't destroy to make their Facebook friends jealous, it seems.

Reports of people losing their phones, their freedoms and even their lives in the pursuit of a good selfie have been rising steadily since 2014, when the first "selfie-related deaths" were reported by news outlets.

According to the data crunchers at Priceonomics, 49 people made headlines during that span of time for dying while attempting to take smartphone self-portraits – the majority of them falling from heights trying to capture an "extreme" moment for posterity or the promise of "likes."

Animals, too, have been threatened by this behaviour in the past. However, there hadn't been any widely reported cases of selfies actually killing wildlife until this week.

Argentinean animal rights organization Fundación Vida Silvestre, an arm of The World Wildlife Foundation, published a statement on Tuesday decrying the behaviour of tourists in Buenos Aires.

According to the statement, two Franciscan dolphins were swimming near a resort last week when they were taken from the water and "manipulated by tourists to photograph."

Footage shared by Vida Silvestre and local news sources shows a mob of tourists passing around one of the tiny dolphins, which are vulnerable to extinction according to the International Union for Conservation, while swarming to take photos of it and with it.

"One of them ended up dying," reads the English translation of Vida Silvestre's statement on Facebook. "Like other dolphins, they can not stay long out of the water because its thick skin provides internal heat, quickly causing dehydration and death." 

News of the incident spread quickly online thanks to social media, international news coverage and celebrities including British comedian Ricky Gervais, who referred to the tourists with an obscenity on both Instagram and Twitter.

"This terribly unfortunate event is an example of the casual cruelty people can inflict when they use animals for entertainment purposes, without thinking of the animal's needs," a spokeswoman for Australia's arm of World Animal Protection told ABC News.

"At least one of these dolphins suffered a horrific, traumatic and utterly unnecessary death, for the sake of a few photographs. Wild animals are not toys or photo props. They should be appreciated — and left alone — in the wild where they belong."

Many on Twitter expressed similar disdain for what appeared to be happening in photos and videos of the Buenos Aires beach mob.

On Thursday, a tourist who reportedly took the original beach photos told an Argentine television station the dolphin was dead when it arrived on the beach.

He said that several dolphins had already washed ashore due to the heat that day, and that tourists took pictures with the dolphin for approximately five minutes.

"We took him back to the sea and he didn't swim back out," he said to Telefe Noticias, though this information has not been confirmed.

"They should have just called the authorities," said Verónica García of Vida Silvestre during an interview with CBC Radio's As It Happens, noting that people should never interfere with wild animals, even if they're dead or sick.

García says hundreds of dolphins die each year from the nets local fisherman use.

Her organization has also been receiving stories from other concerned animal lovers since publicly condemning the dolphin-selfie tourists.

"A guy took a dolphin from the water to show to the public and then threw it into the garbage," García said, quoting a tip she had read.