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World Animal Protection

Image Recognition Software Reveals Impact of Cruel Wildlife Selfies on Social Media

India ranks 9th on the list of countries contributing to the growing trend of selfies with wildlife1

Oct 04, 2017   12:43 IST 
New Delhi, Delhi, India

On World Animal Day, World Animal Protection is launching a Wildlife Selfie Code for tourists to learn how to take a photo with wild animals without fueling the cruel wildlife entertainment industry. Selfies with wild animals have proliferated over the last two years on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter – the explosive trend on social media is driving the suffering and exploitation for some of the world’s most iconic animals in the Amazon.


The charity partnered with Grassriots to provide a snapshot of the prevalence, breadth, and trends around wildlife selfies online globally. Combining robust keyword search, image recognition, and machine learning, they trained social listening algorithms to successfully identify “good selfies” and “bad selfies” amongst hundreds of thousands of public social media posts around the world.


The technology has helped to identify where people have posted images of tourists hugging, holding, or interacting with animals, also referred to as ‘bad selfies’, and where people have posted images of animals in their natural habitats who were not interacting with people, known as ‘good selfies’.


The software also helped to uncover the ten species that were posted the most, with kangaroos at number one, followed by elephants and then sloths. It also revealed Australia as having both the most bad and good wildlife selfies posted.


Gajender K Sharma, India Country Director at World Animal Protection says: Iconic wild animals are stolen from the wild and used as photo props for tourists to post on social media - the reality is these unfortunate animals are suffering terribly, both in front of and behind the camera."


“The growing demand for harmful wildlife selfies is a serious animal welfare concern. Our recent investigation in the Amazon also found that over 20% of the species involved are threatened by extinction and over 60% are protected by international law.


The cutting-edge research showed:

  • There’s 292% increase in the number of wildlife selfies posted on Instagram between 2014 to June 2017.

  • Over 40% of selfies show ‘bad’ wildlife selfies – i.e. someone hugging, holding, or inappropriately interacting with a wild animal.

  • People will most likely upload a ‘good’ wildlife selfie when they have been educated or exposed to the cruelty behind the scenes.


Grassriots founder and CEO Ryan Baillargeon says: We wanted to help World Animal Protection create positive social change around the world. This research, which utilized image recognition software, is important, given its’ potential to save the lives of countless animals.


Join the movement to end this cruel industry by signing The Wildlife Selfie Code and commit to keeping wild animals in the wild, where they belong.


Notes to editors

  • For more information, photos and videos or to arrange an interview please contact Shashwat Raj +91 9971110144 E.

  • This can be the country that the photo is tagged with other being taken in or where the Instagram user is located1

  • According to the research, the top ten wildlife selfies that were uncovered were kangaroos, elephants, sloths, turtles, primates, tigers, lions, giraffes, koalas, and dolphins.

  • In July of 2017, World Animal Protection started working with Grassriots, a digital agency dedicated to supporting their clients with innovative technology solutions that engage their members, grow their networks, and achieve their missions. Grassriots has helped World Animal Protection understand the breadth and impact of “wildlife selfies” as a worrying manifestation of wildlife ecotourism (a global industry generating up to $250 billion USD annuallythat condemns approximately 550,000 animals to abusive situations).

  • Advances in social listening and image analysis technology have opened new avenues to identify, track, and analyze trends in opinion, interest, emotion, and behaviour. As the volume of data increases year over year, non-profits have the opportunity to determine the climate of conversation around the topics and issues that drive their missions and visions.

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