The rare Franciscana dolphin died after being pulled from the water by swimmers in Santa Teresita, Argentina, who wanted to take a dolphin selfie.
A man named Hernan Coria posted images online showing a crowd of people surrounding a man who lifts the dolphin from the water, before taking it up to the beach. People gather round to take photos with the animal, before it is seen lying dead on the beach.
After going viral the images have fed into the existing debate over people going to extreme lengths to snap selfies with wild animals. The extremely rare dolphin is only found in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.
To take their dolphin selfie the beachgoers left the animal out of the water for so long that it died. According to the Argentina Wildlife Foundation the Franciscana dolphin has trouble breathing out of the water.
Coria described the situation as a “pity.” The dolphin was left to die on the beach in a move which drew the ire of the Wildlife Foundation, which said that two dolphins were actually removed from the water. Only one died.
“If you see a Franciscana dolphin, help return it to the water. These situations can lead to death,” the foundation said in a tweet.
Animal rights group express outrage at unnecessary death
The dolphins can reach 4-6 feet in length and weigh up to 115 pounds. Although they can live for up to twenty years, they are very rare. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, they are vulnerable to extinction and only 30,000 are left alive.
“The Franciscana, like other dolphins, can not remain long above water. It has a very thick and greasy skin that provides warmth, so the weather quickly causes dehydration and death,” the foundation’s statement noted.
The dolphin selfie incident has only added to the outrage that groups feel about selfies taken with wild animals. Many other animals have been injured, or injured people, due to our seemingly insatiable appetite for selfies.
“This terribly unfortunate event is an example of the casual cruelty people can inflict when they use animals for entertainment purposes, without thinking of the animal’s needs,” a spokeswoman for the Australian branch of World Animal Protection told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“Wild animals are not toys or photo props. They should be appreciated – and left alone – in the wild where they belong,” she added.
Humans now have to be warned about taking dangerous selfies
For example in Yellowstone National Park a woman was gored in July after trying to take a selfie with a bison. Visitors are now given a leaflet warning them against getting too close to the animals.
Other incidents in the park include a man who died trying to take a picture with a black bear. Police found the man’s phone covered in tooth marks, with pictures showing the bear around 100 feet away.
According to research, people take risky selfies in order to stand out from the crowd. Zlatan Krizan, an associate professor of psychology at Iowa State University told LiveScience last year that “nobody wants to be outdone” by their friends’ photos.
The dolphin selfie death shows how selfies can have terrible consequences, particularly for threatened species like the Franciscana.
“The occasion serves to inform the public about the urgent need to return to these dolphins to sea,” the Argentinian Wildlife Foundation noted in its statement. “It is vital that people help to rescue these animals because every Franciscana counts now.”