Animals

This Park Is Asking People To Stop Taking Selfies With Wombats

Believe it or not, they don't love selfies as much as we do.

Officials at a park in Australia are asking visitors to respect the wildlife there—namely, by being more mindful of the well-being of the wild animals and stop pestering them for selfies.

On Maria Island, which is just off the coast of Tasmania, wombat selfies have become so problematic that the park is now asking visitors to vow to “not chase you with my selfie stick, or get too close to your babies. I will not surround you, or try and pick you up. I will make sure I don’t leave rubbish or food from my morning tea. I pledge to let you stay wild.”

The Maria Island Pledge also asks people to promise they’ll “explore with a sense of responsibility, adventure and kindness.” (The pledge is not meant to actually be signed, but rather it intends to be thought-provoking to visitors.)

The Maria Island location tag on Instagram is full of wombat pics — and people posing next to them and even petting the wild animals. The docile, fuzzy creatures might appear to tolerate human proximity, but animals don’t always show signs of stress that are apparent to tourists. With animal selfies getting so out of hand that there are multiple instances of selfie-takers unwittingly harming the animals, it’s not surprising officials have asked people to give wildlife some space.

Wild animals don’t want to be near people, Greg Irons, director of the nearby Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, told Tasmania Talks. What’s more, “A lot of people want to feed animals or use food to make an animal come closer to them and that can result in all sorts of dramas,” he said. (In addition to the inherent dangers of habituating wild animals to people, giving wild animals food that isn’t part of their natural diet can make them really sick.)

Discover Tasmania’s Instagram account shows the right way to get those wildlife snaps from your travels — zoom in! This account has plenty of wombat posts, too, including the one below, but their pics of the marsupials are taken from a respectful distance, as the caption on this post notes:

“Just remember, they are wild, so be sure to admire them from a distance,” the caption reads.

In national parks in the U.S., keeping a safe distance away from wildlife isn’t just recommended — it’s the law. Visitors to Yellowstone National Park are required to stay at least 25 yards from all wildlife, and at least 100 yards away from bears or wolves. Close encounters with bison, who sometimes roam across roads in the park, are common at Yellowstone, and officers arrested a man who taunted a bison on a park road last year. (Bison are dangerous, so getting arrested was one of the better outcomes he could have had for this stunt.)

Visitors to the Galapagos Islands, a national park and UNESCO World Heritage site, are forbidden from being within six feet of the wildlife — even if the wildlife approaches you. Plenty of other rules for protecting this unusual ecosystem come with a visit to the Galapagos, but really, they’re all a small, reasonable price to pay for the opportunity to some of the most amazing animals in the world.

If you love animals and want to be a responsible snapper of selfies, you can follow World Animal Project’s wildlife selfie code, which suggests only snapping photos when animals are living in their own home, from a safe distance, and not baiting animals with food or holding them (since many unscrupulous companies and “sanctuaries” in name only drug and abuse animals into submission for tourist photos).

In the meantime, Discover Tasmania’s Instagram is inspiring, and you’ve got to admit, you don’t have to be petting this wombat mom and her baby to appreciate the cuteness:

Aww!