From Cornwall to Aberdeenshire, wildlife is suffering because of loss of habitat, pollution, dwindling food supplies and poaching. Things are hard for many species as it is, but people desperate for #Selfies and videos are now also a threat.

Animals are being frightened, hurt and even killed in the pursuit of personal media content. The problem is worldwide. A swan was fatally injured for a women's selfie in Macedonia in May 2016. Brazillian beachgoers passed a terrified baby dolphin around a beach for photos and videos until it was dead in February 2016. In July this year, several men in Florida brutally dragged a shark at high speed behind a motorboat until it was virtually ripped apart: at least one of them was linked to other acts of deliberately harming animals.

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Man jumped on seal in Cornwall

The UK is far from immune to this phenomenon. In late July, a group of people filmed themselves in Cornwall at Fistral Beach laughing as one of them, a blond man in a blue bathing suit, jumped on top of a seal in the water. Cornwall police released this statement:

“Police have received a third-hand report of a video appearing on #Social media which claims to have been filmed at a beach in Newquay, which shows a man jumping into the water near a seal. This has been passed on to the local neighbourhood team for information.”

There is some confusion as to whether the police have the name of the suspect or not, with a member of the Cornwall Marine and Coastal Code Group saying the man’s identity is known, but no arrest or charges seem forthcoming at present.

People ignoring the signs

At the opposite end of the country, seals are under threat in Aberdeenshire from people who refuse to obey signs, fences and even instructions from marine conservationists to leave the seals undisturbed.

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Seals need to ‘haul out’ or rest on the sands for many hours before they take to the sea for food again. People are legally bound to leave them alone, yet these seals are bombarded by overhead drones, dogs off leashes, and people finding it amusing to frighten the seals back into the water to take videos. This behaviour is prohibited, the signs are clear, and yet people persist.

Ythan Seal Watch is a group of volunteers raising awareness of the problem. According to the YSE Facebook Page YSW: -

“…will be around the river Ythan to try to prevent disturbance to Seals that are hauled out on the sand. There has been an increased number of disturbances to Seals including drones, dogs, boats and the most common issue, people getting too close for pictures. Our friendly team of volunteers hope to prevent this from happening by positive public engagement.”

John Robins of the charities Animal Concern Advice Line and Save Our Seals Fund said:

“People stupid enough to take selfies with wild animals probably don’t care if their idiocy ends in the death of the animal.

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They are not concerned that their actions cause stress and suffering to animals and the abandonment of young animals by their parents. Perhaps they will be more concerned to learn that disturbing animals can lead to the selfie taker ending up in a police cell, a hospital bed or on a slab at the local mortuary. Unless you have a special licence, it is illegal to take photographs of many protected species of animal and bird. Get caught doing that and you will be carted off to the police station. Seals, even cute and cuddly pups, have a nasty bite which carries a high risk of very dangerous infections which can lead to long term debility and even death. Many other animals and birds carry zoonosis, diseases including salmonella, e-Coli and even rabies which can infect humans. My advice is to use your brain before your camera.”

If you are aware of any wildlife crime in the UK – illegal hunting, poaching, snaring – anything –call 999 if it is happening now, or 101 for anything else. #Uk Wildlife