An ambassador’s take on selfish selfies

16 August 2023


With the summer holidays in full swing in the UK, Born Free’s Junior and Youth Ambassadors wanted to share their own thoughts on why we should STOP Selfish Selfies this summer.

A photo showing a crowd of people at a zoo taking a photo of a lemur on their mobile phones

Young people are the future. Their thoughts and opinions matter, particularly when it comes to the future of our planet and its wildlife. Born Free’s Youth and Junior Ambassadors wanted to explain – in their own words – why we should care about wild animal welfare, and bring Selfish Selfies to an end.   


Thea Caine, Junior Ambassador

“Everywhere you look these days people are taking selfies, but what can seem like the perfect photo isn’t always the case.

“If you love wild animals and see someone offering you the chance to take a selfie with one you might think “This is a great!” But stop and think…

“Why is this animal not in the wild? How is it being kept and what is its life like? Is it locked up in a cage or chained then brought out to make money from unsuspecting tourists?

“Please don’t encourage this exploitation of animals and don’t take Selfish Selfies.

“Instead of taking a Selfish Selfie, there are other ways in which you can show your appreciation and admiration of wildlife, such as observing animals in their natural habitat. By doing this, we can contribute to their well-being and preservation without causing harm.

“Wild animals belong in the wild, not as props for photos.”

Thea Caine sitting in a meadow

Hector Bateman, Youth Ambassador

“Holidays – having the best time, maybe even the trip of a lifetime. You’re enjoying everything the destination has to offer and you want to make memories and mementos for home. Sadly, there are often animals there who are not enjoying the destination, nor their lifetime.

“You’re offered opportunities to take selfies with an animal, especially cute or dangerous creatures. Maybe bottle-feed a tiger cub, sit with a monkey on your shoulder. But if you knew what those animals suffered, I’m sure you wouldn’t think it was cute or funny and not something to show off. Cubs are taken from their mums much too soon, distressed and malnourished, used for a few months before an uncertain future of captivity and possibly even death.

“Animals are mutilated, having claws and teeth pulled out, tied up for hours in the hot bright sun, being pulled around with no peace or comfort. Day after day, these animals suffer noise, heat, handling, flashes, being dragged around cafes, beaches, streets. Little food or water and tiny cages or even just a sack as their home. So that selfie, taken before your cool drink, shade and peace, is a selfish action hurting animals for a few ‘likes’ on social media.

“Please sign Born Free’s pledge instead of taking that ‘Selfish Selfie’.”

A headshot of Hector Bateman

Ayan Kamath Mehra, Youth Ambassador

“Just a few months old, you’re stripped away from your parents. You can still hear them calling to you, and you can still feel their presence. You try calling back, but as soon as you open your mouth you are punched in your lips, leaving a bloody mess smeared across your face. Quickly, you’re wiped off, picked up, and placed in the lap of some strange teeth-baring men and women. Hours of this torture turns to days, days to weeks, and weeks to months.*  

“This is the heart wrenching reality of animals exploited for pictures. Every day, all around the world thousands of baby animals are taken away from their parents to be abused whilst posing for photographs. The cuteness and exoticism of baby animals often overwhelms people’s moral compasses, making them forget to empathise with these animals. However, the hidden truth is hard to ignore.

“Make a difference, never support businesses that exploit animals for photographs and pledge to never take Selfish Selfies.”

*Based on the real story of Ramba the chimpanzee, who was used as a photo prop in a Singapore zoo.

A photo of Ayan Kamath Mehra