Why I swipe left when I see your tiger-selfie on Tinder

Tinder calls on its users to delete certain photos from profiles. And no, it is not about photographs on which certain parts of the body are too exposed. Selfies with tigers, on the other hand, are the pictures the dating app is disgust by. And so am I. Great call Tinder!


"Posing next to the king of the jungle, doesn't make you one" writes Tinder. "Tinder is about meeting new people and all the fun that goes with it. We are proud of our users, who are often known for their funny and often great profiles. We have noticed, however, that some people make a profile that is just too wild."

"We look at you, as part of our community, to ensure change," continues Tinder. "We promise you that your profile will still look wild and amazing without those poor animals."

Animal abuse for tourism

And they're so right!

Due to social media it has become extremely popular: making selfies with wild animals. A cute little monkey, a dolphin or elephant, everybody wants a picture with them. Often, however, these animals live in captivity and are severely mistreated.

When I was 21 I made that mistake myself, I took a swim with orphan dolphins (or whatever the reason was they were held in that basin) at Cuba. I didn't question it back then, it looked like fun and that they were treating the dolphins right. Oh boy, could I've been more wrong. Of course a dolphin is not ok when held in a basin smaller than half a football field! 

One of my travelbuddies told me a story even worse. She visited the Tiger Temple in Thailand. The monks in the temple told her that these 'orphan tigers' are social and used to people and "too tired to form any danger in this heat of the day anyway". In addition, the entrance money went to the construction of a huge wild park where the animals could roam freely in the future. Yet there was something wrong: tigers who spend the day in a kind of arena while tourist after tourist comes to pose with them and none of them acts out.

After her visit she immediately regretted taking the pictures there and started her research. Those animals must have been stunned: pure maltreatment for human entertainment. The practices within the Thai tiger temple turned out to be much more serious than expected.

Animal abuse for tourism

At the beginning of 2016, non-profit organization Cee4life presented a research report in which they show evidence that the temple has been trading illegally in tigers and their 'products' as fur and bones since 2004. In a freezer carcasses of 40 tiger cubs were found, in addition 20 more small ones put in formaldehyde. The temple turned out to be part of so-called tiger farms in Asia, where the animals are bred for the illegal market. 

The tiger temple is a notorious example of animal abuse for human entertainment, but there are plenty more of such places. The main street of Playa del Carmen in Mexico is full of photo shoots with lion and tiger cubs that tourists can take in their arms for a photo. In the Amazon, children from local tribes run by tourist boats with sloths, parrots and small cayadas. All day these animals are passed from one traveler to another, how can this be right?

Often we have no idea what is going on behind the scenes at these animal attractions, but according to Pascal de Smit, director of World Animal Protection Netherlands, it is quite simple: 'If you can ride a wild animal at tourist attractions, you can cuddle it or you can take a picture with it, then there is animal abuse. Do not do it!'. In 2016, the WAP published the first worldwide report on animal suffering at tourist wildlife attractions. Snake charmers, dolphin shows, elephant rides, crocodile farms, dancing monkeys and walking with lions: the campaign website exposed the cruelest animal attractions to make tourists aware.

Animal abuse for tourism

The Bigger Picture

Now, in response to the growing popularity of selfies on social media where animals are the victim, the WAP has started a new campaign: The Bigger Picture. The organization carried out research from the Amazon region and discovered, among other things, that exotic animals such as sloths are being exploited for selfies with tourists. The animals are held and abused to be used as photo-attributes, with stress, injuries and sometimes even death as a result. That's why they have drawn up guidelines for making animal selfies:


Do not - do not make a selfie with ...

  • An animal that is tied up, or picked up and allowed to be cuddled
  • An animal that is lured with food
  • An animal that can attack you, or that you can hurt

Do - Make a selfie with ...

  • An animal that is at a safe distance
  • An animal that is in its natural environment
  • An animal that can move freely and is not being detained

Or, just to make it easy on you: don't go to any animal attraction at all. Just don't. It's just sad anyway.

Ultimately it is all about consciousness. Many tourists do not see the evil of these practices, just as I did not see them as twenty something. Fortunately, more and more parties are committed to getting this message out. Like Tinder asking users to remove photos with the drugged tigers - which turned out to be very popular on the platform. 

So if you still have that tiger-selfie on Tinder, it's guaranteed you will never get a date with this tiger ;-)