Late in 2019 the government agency that administers the the national parks and other natural areas, SINAC (Sistema Nacional de Áreas de Conservación, National System of Conservation Areas), along with the ministry of the environment and the tourism board launched a huge social media publicity campaign with the hashtag #stopanimalselfies.
The concept was basically sound and educating people that it’s wrong to try to ride sea turtles that are coming ashore to nest (yes they did that) is an admirable goal.
Ostional Wildlife Refuge now has two lifelike life size fiberglass Olive Ridley turtle models that presumably work as selfie stand-ins for the real thing. They could also put the fakes out on the sand during the off season and let tourists viewing them from a distance think they’re the real thing…just kidding, they would never.
Other park offices and the tourism desks at the airports were issued stuffed (toy not taxidermy) sloth and monkeys.
Within hours of the launch of the campaign someone dug up a photo of the minister of the environment relaxing with a peccary and plastered it across facebook and twitter.
Unlike the regulations banning feeding animals this social media campaign is not legally binding.
There are dozens of animal rescues in Costa Rica. Some are tiny backyard operations and others have properties with rich environment large enclosures, breeding programs, zoologists and veterinarians on staff but they all have one thing in common – they rely on visitors for financial support.
The shaming campaign against selfies and the laws against feeding animals put the rescues in a difficult position. One of the most popular posts on the facebook page of a central Pacific sea turtle rescue is a short video of half a dozen people guarding baby turtles as they race to the water.
The Kinkajou on my shoulder in the photo below was a rescued pet that could never be fully rehabilitated to return to the wild. They’re social and enjoy interacting but contact with humans may be all there is available.
People enjoy interacting with the animals and it definitely increases donations. It’s not clear to us that all photos of people and animals are bad.