Selfie Seekers Putting Animals (And Selves) At Risk

Surfing on whale sharks, riding a moose, and mugging with bears, smart phone users do some not-so-smart, dangerous, even cruel things.

By Vicki Croke

moose rider

According to Canada’s National Post: “Wildlife authorities in British Columbia said they were on the hunt for the man, who was captured on video leaping out of a boat and onto the moose while his companions laugh from a nearby boat. The video, shot at an unknown time and location, was posted to YouTube.” Video still: Wolftracker TV.

Swimmers using a whale shark as a living surfboard. A boater leaping onto the back of a moose who is trying to swim across a lake. A 22-year-old with a friend who lures a mother manatee and her baby toward the dock so he can cannonball the gentle mammals.

These are among the latest examples of what appears to be a new trend, one in which selfie- and video-seeking humans play a dumb and dangerous game, harassing wild animals in order to gain glory on social media. (Though they sometimes gain a day in court with their own videos working as evidence against them.)

In footage believed to have been shot in Venezuela, two men use a huge whale shark as a living surfboard, as they are pulled along by a speedboat full of people. The scene takes place over a few minutes, and appeared on Facebook in a post that has since been taken down. Whale sharks are the largest fish species and their status is considered “vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Video: vdoobv MY.

Manatees, whale sharks, bisonmoose, tigers—it seems no species is safe.

In fact, taking selfies with wild bears became enough of a trend that the U.S. Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit had to issue a warning against it last year. “We’ve had mobs of people that are actually rushing toward the bears trying to get a ‘selfie’ photo,” Lisa Herron, spokesperson for the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

This week, Canada’s National Post reports that a man whose companions recorded and posted video of him leaping off their boat onto the back of a moose who was trying to swim across a lake may face animal-harassment charges in British Columbia.

In a video posted to YouTube just this past weekend, several people in a boat chase down a moose swimming in a lake in British Columbia. When they draw close enough, one of the men jumps onto the moose. Authorities are trying to identify and locate the man–wildlife harassment is illegal in the province. Though someone on the boat says what he is doing is “awesome,” wildlife officials disagree, telling Canada’s Global News that you can see “fear in the animal’s eyes.” Video: Wolftracker TV.

Depending on where it takes place, and what kind of animal is involved, this kind of activity isn’t just mean, it’s illegal. And though getting that shot may be the motive for tormenting animals to begin with, those videos and pictures themselves, posted on YouTube and other social media, can alert the authorities (as well as motivated animal lovers) and provide clear photographic evidence of the crime…

READ MORE (AND SEE MORE VIDEOS) ON WBUR’S THE WILD LIFE

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