Part of the great thing about travel is getting to see the wildlife in different regions of the world. I remember being amazed by the rainforest in Belize. All the animals were so bright, and there were flowers that would spit at you.
It was one of my first experiences in a new country (if you don’t count visiting family in Canada), and it took my breath away.
Wildlife can really make a trip. You can snorkel to see exotic fish. Or go on a safari to see the animals you’ve only seen in the zoo, now in their natural habitats.
But while they are great to observe, we cannot interfere with their actual activities. We’re outsiders and what we assume are harmless activities can actually kill them.
I’m not sure whether news just gets around better or whether this is the fault of the increasing social sharing people do on trips. (People have died trying to get the perfect selfie). But I’ve noticed more news stories about tourists who killed wildlife to get the perfect picture.
Sure, they didn’t kill them on purpose. But their actions directly resulted in the death of the animal they just had to have a picture of.
What happened this week
The latest is really sad. Tourists were trying to get a picture of a mountain goat in Alaska. He kept walking away from them–a clear sign he was uncomfortable–and they kept following.
They chased him to the point where they had him cornered against the ocean. And he was so scared, he jumped into the ocean to get away and drowned.
He could have made it back to shore, reports say.
But according to the article in the Guardian, there were many people on shore waiting for the goat to swim back. So many that “it couldn’t get back to land because of the crush of people on shore.”
The article in the Guardian cites another recent incident. Two men traveling in Yellowstone picked up a baby bison.
While these two men were well-intentioned, their interference with the animal resulted in its death.
The young bison was released by rangers, only for it to be rejected by its herd following the separation. Yellowstone officials made several attempts to reunite the calf with the herd, to no avail. The calf was then put down by wildlife officials because it was “causing a dangerous situation by continually approaching people and cars along the roadway”.
One month ago, tourists in the Dominican Republic dragged a shark out of the ocean to take selfies with it. The shark did not survive.
What can you do?
Be vigilant. Of course, don’t proactively bother an animal to get a photo. But there are other instances where you should think twice.
For example, when swimming in Jamaica around some coral with a guide, he kept wanting to pick up different sea creatures to hand to me.
Now, if a guide is handing me something, I would assume is is okay to hold. But my father and sister had warned me that handling certain sea creatures would result in their death.
I kept declining his offer to “grab that [insert creature here]” for me. Is killing a sponge worth getting to hold one for a few seconds? Of course not.
Again, I’m not sure why these instances are becoming more prevalent. Is it just that they are getting more press coverage, or is it the selfie culture?
What do you think?