Why your next selfie with a koala may trigger an Instagram warning

Instagram will add content warnings to any wildlife selfies that use particular hashtags.

 

Social media users are increasingly taking selfies with animals as props at tourist attractions such as zoos.

The animals of concern include tigers, lions, koalas and dolphins.

Wildlife conservation groups claim these centres can mistreat the animals and that daily contact with humans can be traumatic, American broadcaster Fox8 reports.

These warnings now come up on wildlife photos on Instagram. Source: Instagram

“To better educate our community members about creating content that exploits wildlife and nature, today we are launching new in-app products to encourage everyone to be thoughtful about interactions with wild animals and the environment,” Instagram said in a statement.

Offending hashtags include #koalaselfie, #lionselfie, #koalahugs or #tigerpet.

A new warning will pop up when visiting these hashtags. You can still view the photos but you can also choose to cancel your search or learn more from an Instagram help page.

“You are searching for a hashtag that may be associated with posts that encourage harmful behavior to animals or the environment,” the warning reads.

Director of Life Sciences at Featherdale Wildlife Park, Chad Staples, told Yahoo7 he "understands" why Instagram feels the need to put a warning.

"Unfortunately, like most industries, there are bad eggs," he said.

"There are going to be organisations that keep animas purely for profit instead of taking their welfare into consideration.

"They [Instagram] have no way of working out the good from the bad."

Mr Staples said that in NSW wildlife organisations do not let people hold koalas.

"That was a really positive step forward for NSW. People can still be in close proximity to the koala but it does not disturb the koala and what it wants to do," he said.

Paris Hilton took a photo with a koala a week ago. Source: Instagram

Other social media sites have previously taken a stand against using photos with animals including dating site Tinder that asked its users not to use selfies with tigers in their profile.

“Posing next to a king of the jungle doesn’t make you one,” Tinder said in a post at the time.

Instagram said while it isn't banning the photos or taking the selfies down, it is removing images that depict animal abuse.

There are are more than 3000 posts just with the hashtag #koalaselfie, including one posted by Paris Hilton a week ago.

Instagram also has policed content for other topics including suicide, self-harm and eating disorders.

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