When selfies go too far: Rare dolphin dies after beach photos

A rare Franciscana dolphin died after being pulled from the water by beachgoers near an Argentinian resort. The incident raises anew a debate over the lengths people go to take a memorable selfies.

Last week, a young Franciscana dolphin died after being pulled from the water by beachgoers in Santa Terisita, Argentina, who hoped to take a picture with the tiny animal.

In images posted online by a man named Hernan Coria, people are seen rushing over as someone pulls the dolphin out of the water and carries it to the beach, leading a crowd to gather, stroke the dolphin, and pose for pictures.

The viral images are reigniting concerns about the risks of people taking selfies with wild animals.

The Franciscana, or La Plata, dolphin is an extremely rare species found only in Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. Like many sea creatures, it has difficulty breathing if left out of the water for long, the Argentine Wildlife Foundation said in a statement.

In a situation Mr. Coria described on Facebook as a “pity,” the beachgoers left the dolphin on the beach, where it appeared to be motionless in an image captured on video.

The incident drew a rebuke from the Wildlife Foundation, which said that two dolphins had been pulled from the water, though only one was believed to have 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 that included a picture of people petting the dolphin.

Franciscana dolphins, which grow to between 4 and 6 feet long, weigh up to 115 pounds, and can live up to 20 years, are extremely rare. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has said they are vulnerable to extinction, noting that there are are roughly 30,000 left in the world, EcoWatch reports.

“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.

Other groups have joined in condemning the incident, adding to a growing chorus of voices expressing alarm about the lengths people will go to snap a memorable selfie, including many incidents that have led animals to injure people or people to injure themselves, as the Monitor’s Jessica Mendoza reported in July.

"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.

At Yellowstone National Park, visitors are now handed a pamphlet warning them not to get to close to the park’s bison – a danger that’s become particularly relevant after a bison gored a woman who was attempting to take a selfie with it this past July.

The pamphlet, which includes an image of a man being flung into the air by the animal, has become necessary after a variety of incidents, including one in which a New Jersey man was killed after trying to take a picture with a black bear. Investigators said they found the man’s phone, which had tooth marks, with pictures of the bear standing 100 feet away, Sierra Magazine reports.

Researchers say the decision to take risky selfies often stems from a desire to “raise the bar” in what we capture for posterity.

Zlatan Krizan, an associate professor of psychology at Iowa State University told LiveScience last year that “nobody wants to be outdone" when it comes to their photos.

Nonetheless, the decision to involve animals can have large-scale consequences, especially for vulnerable species, animal rights groups say.

“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.”

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.