It happened again: a baby dolphin in Argentina has been killed after being mobbed by tourists looking for the perfect selfie.
According to La Capital, a newspaper in Argentina, on Sunday tourists dragged the dolphin from the ocean in San Bernardo, about 200 miles south of Buenos Aires. A blurry YouTube video shows a crowd of people standing and kneeling around the small creature, touching and petting it.
“They let him die,” one observer quoted in La Capital told C5N, a TV news channel. “He was young and came to the shore. They could have returned him to the water—in fact, he was breathing. But everyone started taking photos and touching him. They said he was already dead.”
This is the second time in a year that a young dolphin in Argentina has died at the hands of selfie-seeking tourists. Last February an endangered La Plata dolphin was killed on a beach in the resort town of Santa Teresita. It was passed around until it died of dehydration.
The problem with tourists harming animals in search of Instagram-worthy photos is not a new phenomenon. Nearly every week a new tragic incident comes to light.
“Social media has changed the landscape, making exotic animals seem adorable and acceptable, but what you don’t see is the suffering that lies behind the images,” National Geographic wrote last year. Slow lorises, raccoon dogs, and pygmy marmosets are just a few of the wild animals that have become famous by posing and interacting with people on YouTube and other social media sites. (Read more: The Dark Side of Trendy Animal Photos.)
Making—and sharing—these images and videos puts the animals at risk by heightening their appeal as pets and giving the impression that it’s fun (and safe) to get close to them.
A 2011 study, for example, showed that people were more likely to think chimpanzees would make great pets if they saw images of the primates standing next to a person. Another study showed about 10 percent of 12,000 comments on a 2009 viral video of a pygmy slow loris, which is endangered, mentioned that they wanted one as a pet. (Read more: Why You Shouldn’t Share That Cute Lemur Video).
So please, don’t be one of those people. Give wild animals their space.