Don’t do that #WildlifeSelfie for the gram! Instagram adds new protection alert

Cape Town – Instagram wants to protect wildlife and nature from exploitation.

The insanely popular photo-sharing app, that has more than 700 million users and some 250 million active users on its Insta-live stories, has instituted a very positive filter by issuing an advisory screen when a person searches for a hashtag associated with harmful behavior to animals or the environment.

Animal abuse and the sale of endangered animals or their parts are not allowed on Instagram, it says.

Environmental Considerations

In the alert which will now be flagged on hashtags associated with animal exploitation Instagram says, “Whether you’re trying to capture a perfect photo or take a selfie, we encourage you to be mindful of the environment around you. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment when you’re surrounded by nature’s beauty, but risking damage to the environment—whether it’s walking on wildflowers, moving a nest or carving initials—is never worth a few likes.

Interactions with Wild Animals

“We also encourage you to be mindful of your interactions with wild animals, and consider whether an animal has been smuggled, poached or abused for the sake of tourism. For example, be wary when paying for photo opportunities with exotic animals, as these photos and videos may put endangered animals at risk.

‘Instagram works with wildlife groups to identify and take action on photos or videos that violate our community guidelines, such as posts depicting animal abuse, poaching, or the sale of endangered animals and their parts.

To learn more about endangered wildlife and exploitation, visit:

As an example, when you search the hashtag #KoalaSelfie, which in fact has some 3 200 posts associated with it, you will now see the following message.

#SlothSelfie has more than 4 269 posts. Sadly, there is no alert on #LionCubs which might be a more natural search hashtag – with more than 80k posts and a few showing lion cub petting.

There is much evidence to support that lion cub petting feeds into the wider issue of canned lion hunting in South Africa – largely said to stoke the practice of trophy lion hunting. Lions are listed as a threatened species according to CITES – with less than 20k truly wild lions left in Africa.

“This is an incredible move by Instagram in the campaign against wildlife exploitation in tourism. Travellers need to become responsible for their actions and realise the damage that is caused by these interactions. Ask yourselves – where did this animal come from? Why am I able to touch it? Animals cannot be released into the wild after human interaction – it is as simple as that,” says Nicola Gerrard, Blood Lions campaign.

Just to note here and something worth mentioning: The next step here would be for Instagram to flag the #WildlifeSelfies as they are posted by individuals, in addition to notifying the hashtag searches.

Op-Ed: Hunters and predator breeders take aim at Star journalist

The South African Predator Association (SAPA) – whose members breed for hunting, among other creatures, what it terms “managed ranch lions” – has set its cross-hairs on another prey: a journalist and her newspaper.

The Predator Association has served summons on Independent Media as publishers of The Star and a journalist, Shannon Ebrahim, following the publication of her article, Canned lion hunting damaging Brand SA. It’s claiming damages of R1,000,000.

In what is clearly an attempt to muzzle criticism aimed at its members, SAPA appears to be reaching beyond the journalist to environmental NGOs and activists she quotes who campaign against cruel hunting practices. Independent and Ebrahim will defend the action and believe they have a strong case on the merits.

The summons singles out the acclaimed documentary Blood Lions and specifically its lead consultant, Ian Michler, for what SAPA claims to be false statements that the hunting of “canned” lions is cruel, barbaric and macabre and that they are raised in cages to be shot by foreign thrill-seekers.

SAPA seems particularly stung by what it perceives in Ebrahim’s article to be a claim that its members are involved in illegal, unethical and poaching practices and unacceptable labour practices. Also that most operators and breeders are apartheid-era reactionaries.

There is a strong possibility that when Independent Newspapers defends the case, SAPA will be confronted by more than it bargained for. It is likely to be called upon to contend with claims and investigations of damning evidence from a wide range of organisations and environmentalists quoted in the Star article.

Blood Lions, for a start, has visual evidence of cruelty on farms where lions are reared for the bullet. Captive lion breeding for hunting has also been condemned by the African Lion Working Group (comprising 100 registered scientists), the Endangered Wildlife Trust, Panthera, Wildlands Trust, Wild Cat Conservation Group, International Union for Conservation of Nature, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Four Paws, Coalition Against Lion Hunting, the NSPCA and the Humane Society International. All could probably be called on to give evidence in support of Ebrahim.

The quote on damage captive-bred hunting was doing to South Africa’s international image came from the then Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom.

“I think it has already damaged Brand South Africa,” he said on camera in Blood Lions. ‘The practice of canned lion hunting or breeding in captivity comes with a lot of negativity and therefore it does and probably will do further reputational damage unless we take some more decisive measures to discourage it.

“Our first step is to be in one mind as a country about whether we want this – is this something that we feel proud of as a nation? My feeling is I’m not proud of it.”

Dr Andrew Venter, the CEO of Wildlands, said he would be prepared to support Ebrahim if called to. “The South African captive lion breeding and associated hunting and bone trading activities,” he said in response to the summons, “are not regarded as bone fide conservation activities by the vast majority of conservation organisations, both in South Africa and globally, including the IUCN”.

“There is significant concern around the conditions under which the lions are bred, reared, hunted and slaughtered, with many conservationists and hunters finding the industry to be immoral and unethical in its behaviour and practice.”

Commenting on the lawsuit, the executive director of Humane Society International, Audrey Delsink, said: “It is intended to intimidate this journalist and others who see it as their duty to expose the cruel lion breeding industry for what it truly is. Ebrahim gave accepted representations of South Africa’s captive breeding and exploitation of lions. She merely collated general opinion and consensus of this shameful industry.

“SAPA should not waste the valuable time and resources of the judiciary, as well as this newspaper and journalist. This is a clear attempt to muzzle public opinion.”

Support for Ebrahim and Independent also came from tourism specialist Colin Bell. “One in seven South Africans are directly dependent on the tourism industry to put food on the table. My concern about the canned lion industry is that it potentially can damage Brand South Africa in such a bad way. Why risk that for the benefit of a few individuals?”

Shortly after SAPA issued the summons, it was slammed by 27 of the world’s top conservation and research organisations and individuals on another matter: a letter it wrote to the US Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, requesting the lifting of the ban by US Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS ) on the importation of captive-bred lion trophies.

In an open letter to Zinke, the lion conservation community refutes SAPA’s claim that hunting of captive bred lions presents conservation benefits to wild lions. “There is no published, peer-reviewed evidence to support this statement,” they wrote. “The hunting of captive-bred lions neither benefits biodiversity conservation nor the conservation of wild and free-ranging lions.”

SAPA also claimed that if captive lion hunting was stopped, increased pressure would be placed on wild populations, but they provide no evidence whatsoever to substantiate this.

“SAPA states that if USFWS does not allow for the importation of lion trophies then these lions will be euthanised. It is unclear how this outcome would differ biologically from killing them in a captive hunt, or for their bones? Either way, the lions will be killed.

“We wish to express that SAPA’s letter is fraught with inaccuracies, false statements and a flawed viewpoint that is shaped for the economic benefit of captive lion breeders.”

Canned lion hunting uproar


CANNED hunting is fake hunting for people who choose their victim online, pay a lot of money to execute it and then boast about their ‘achievement’.”

These are the words of environmental attorney Cormac Cullinan after the recent decision by the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa Phasa to permit the killing of captivebred lions as a legitimate form of hunting. Members of the association voted to reverse the organisation’s policy against the hunting of captivebred lions at its annual meeting which was held on November 22.

“There seems to be a continuum between hunting through a chainlinked fence and shooting in the wild. Both end in the death of one of the world’s top predators. The fact that the canned hunter’s cousins, those that want to kill in the wild, don’t significantly divorce themselves from this practice places all hunting in the same category” said Dereck Joubert, National Geographic Explorer in Residence and founder of the Big Cats Initiative.

However, it is a move that has seen several hunting operators resign from the association and others criticising its legitimacy. Stewart Dorrington, who served for three years as president of Phasa, summarised hunters’ concerns about the decision. “We, as a concerned group of professional hunters, distance ourselves completely from such acceptance and no longer view Phasa as the legitimate mouthpiece for professional hunting in South Africa. A new association will be formed in the very near future,” Dorrington said.

The African Professional Hunter’s Association APHA in Tanzania also issued a statement saying it was “appalled by the decision made by the Phasa to condone the reprehensible practice of captive bred lion hunting,” and that its members, “strongly condemn, and vigorously oppose any form of captive bredcanned lion hunting”.

The Operators and Professsional Hunting Associations of Africa OPHAA said it was also deeply troubled by the decision and had accordingly indefinitely suspended Phasa’s membership in OPHAA. “Phasa’s actions completely disregard one of the fundamental concepts of hunting, namely fairchase, and will without doubt, jeopardise not only conservation efforts, but also the livelihoods of those who rely on wellmanaged and ethical hunting practices,” OPHAA said.

It’s not just lion hunting that conservationists find problematic with the industry, but the practices that lead to it. This includes removing cubs from their mothers at just a few weeks for the cub petting industry, ill management of sub adult lions for walking with lion experiences and a shady sideline industry laundering lion bones. “In a canned situation the despicable practice of actual breeding those lions for slaughter is a deeply disturbing indictment of who we are as a species,” Joubert said.

Ian Michler, creator of the film Blood Lions, which played a big part in exposing the industry behind canned hunting, said he was deeply concerned by the resolution. “Their stance is a combination of ludicrously archaic thinking that seems to have no ethical or ecological grounding, as well as pure greed,” Michler said.

Cullinan agreed and called for a renewed fight against canned hunting. “Canned hunting finances an abominable industry based on the confinement and cruel exploitation of magnificent wild animals by unethical people. This decision makes it even more important to step up the pressure to ban canned hunting and the sale of lion bones,” Cullinan said.