A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Mar 1, 2016

Hippo Selfies - That's a Thing!

Courtesy Google Images
No sooner did I express my outrage at those taking selfies with wildlife, to the demise of the wildlife, that it was brought to my attention that selfies with hippos at the Los Angeles Zoo is now a thing!

The "Hippo Encounter" tour allows customers to observe hippos as well as to touch them and take a photo with them. Notwithstanding a pending federal complaint that this exhibit violates the Animal Welfare Act, there is the question of what we are teaching our children, violation or not.

Hippos are wild animals and extremely dangerous. The fact that the zoo would allow people to stick their hands in and pet them seems quite risky to say the least. It also sends the message that it is ok to approach a wild animal, touch them and, yes, try for the selfie! This could end very badly for the child who simply assumes that this behavior is just fine in all instances.

When my children were young we took them to a lot of children's theatre performances. There, they were encouraged to interact with, shout at, and often join the cast on stage. A great time was had by all. However, the first time we took our kids to a Broadway play, they assumed the same rules applied, and that if Hamlet asked "to be or not to be" a loud response from them was expected. The worst case scenario was that we were mortified and/or required to run after them as they headed for the stage in response to a "come hither", but not faced with the tragic and life changing consequences of a wild animal attack while chasing a selfie.

The point, is that if the zoo wants to be considered seriously as an educational facility, it should educate responsibly and not recklessly.

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