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Our Selfie Addiction Is Killing Animals Around The World

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By Smriti Raghunandan:

Selfies are killing animals around the world. Let me bombard you with a few recent heart-wrenching, stomach-churning examples:

The case of the Franciscana dolphin calf:

The calf was allegedly killed by tourists, as they passed it around to take selfies. While the Argentine incident was under scrutiny, tourists who were at the spot, claimed that the dolphin was already dead. My question is that, which sick person would pass on a dead dolphin calf just to take a selfie with the poor soul?

The wild selfie:

A man in Florida dragged out a small shark to take a ‘wild’ selfie.

Pluck them feathers and watch them cry:

The news on two peacocks dying at the Yunnan Wild Animal Park in China after tourists manhandled them for they wanted to take ‘exotic’ selfies with these poor creatures, was just too much to handle. To add to the horror, the zoo reported that the tourists also plucked their feathers which sent the birds into a state of shock.

The world’s ‘Grandest Zoo’:

This is the heart-wrenching story of the world’s saddest polar bear. The Grandview Mall Aquarium opened its doors to the public in January, 2016, just so that people could take the best of selfies.

The coastline horror:

Tourists in San Diego were caught harassing birthing seals and newborns along the coast of this city. For your information, this was the pupping season along the Pacific coastline and there we were, terrifying these poor creatures to death, literally!

Now I guess you get the point; the frustration, the angst, the agony that your mind goes through when you are trying to comprehend the fact that these horrifying incidents have been instigated by the so-called educated lot who supposedly know how to behave better than ‘animals’ – the species that have the ‘oh-so-famous sixth sense’. And believe you me, this is just 1/100th of the poison that’s been spewed all over.

Making Your Holiday Photo Albums A Whole Lot Fancier

We just celebrated World Tiger Day two months ago, but have we taken a step back to think of all those tigers that have gone missing in the last few decades? What about 19-year-old Macchli who passed away? She was lucky enough (supposedly) to be taken care of, but do we know how well she was taken care of? And more importantly, how she was one of the most ‘photographed’ tigers? Is that what tigers are for?

Let’s look at some numbers – a few thousand years ago, Asian countries, alone, housed about 100,000 tigers. Today, we stand at a mere 3200 worldwide. The rest are probably hunting trophies, carpets in a luxurious home or maybe even consumed as a meal or in the form of tiger-bone wine! While we are continuing to applaud the fact that the number of tigers has increased in India, what happens to the ones that have gone missing in all these years?

Yet another news that has been making it to the international headlines is the famous Tiger Temple in Thailand.

For more than a decade, the famous Tiger Temple in Thailand – formerly known as Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yannasampanno – has been accused of being involved in animal abuse. Tigers have gone missing and are being drugged so that we humans can do “kootchi koo” with them and from nowhere, there are zillions of cubs appearing in the temple but most people don’t seem to care. All they want to do is take the best of the photos. So that’s one item scored off the checklist!

Below Are Some Of The Disturbing Facts About This So-Called Temple:

The temple houses over 147 captive tigers.

Tourists from all over the world land up here to get up close and cuddly with these tigers; this generates up to $3 million of income a year.

Tiger cubs are the most famous props among tourists. Since 2008, between 6 and 20 cubs were needed for every three to four tourists to ‘cuddle’, because these poor creatures became dangerous as they grew up (this ‘dangerous’ behavior obviously seems very abnormal given that tigers are domesticated mammals and definitely enjoy a belly rub or two! When pigs can fly, then why not?) This is according to the research help by Sybelle Foxcroft, an Australian wildlife management expert whose brainchild is the Tiger Temple Report.

So Here’s My Theory To This Mess:

This means that there is a gap in the demand-supply curve, so to speak. If there is a higher number of tourists, the temple will need a higher number of tigers! It’s that simple you see. So here’s what this temple did:

In order to increase the population of these magnificent animals, the technique of ‘speed breeding’ was adopted (because it is the only ‘sensible’ way of going about it). As soon as a litter arrived, they were immediately taken away from the mother so that the mother was made ready to mate again. This automatically bumped the number of litters every year. Imagine the number of tigers that have gone missing for this very reason; the math is quite simple, but it leaves one with a bad taste in the mouth.

In January 2016, Sharon Guynup of National Geographic did an exclusive piece on how the temple is involved in the black market tiger trade. New evidence has revealed that the tigers have been illegally trafficked across the border to Laos from this monastery. Different parts of this majestic animal including the bones, skin etc. cost a fortune in the black market. Many tigers have gone missing from the monastery but none of the officials there have answers as to how and why.

The saddest part of it all – no one has been charged for the case of the missing tigers.

The Temple has been shut down recently but the officials have been going around slapping defamation cases against people, organisations and news channels who have been trying their utmost best to help these majestic creatures. So much for peace, brotherhood and universal love.

Torture That’s Closer To Home

Let’s take a step back -I am sure that most of you have come across people who dress up like little monkeys, cows, donkeys, horses, goats and elephants just so that it adds flair to the festival season or just so that human children screech and jump around these creatures with joy. While things might look all hunky-dory on the outside, we all know what’s happening otherwise.

The World Animal Protection, which is an international non-profit organisation, released a report earlier this month on the “ten of the world’s cruellest attractions”. The main reason why I am listing this down for you is so that you don’t end up repeating these mistakes over and over again when you visit a place the next time. It’s better late than never, all it takes is a little effort to save the lives of these poor souls:

Riding elephants – We continue to see this in a lot of countries including India, Sri Lanka, southern Africa, some parts of South-East Asia etc. I’ve seen these rides being organised at the so-called elephant orphanages and sanctuaries in southern parts of India – Gudalur (next to Mudumalai) and Coorg, for instance.

Taking tiger selfies – I don’t think I could talk about this any further. It is increasingly seen in southern Africa too during the so-called animal-friendly safaris.

Visiting bear parks – Some parts of the US used to have bear parks; the Saunooke Bear Park in North Carolina was shut down because of reported violations.

Holding sea turtles – This is a major tourist attraction in Cayman Islands. You can, in fact, choose to eat them if you feel like it.

Performing dolphins – We have the famous SeaWorld controversy that still persists. However, what’s amazing to see is that the majority of the crowd around the world continues to boycott the damn company.

Dancing monkeys – We’ve seen enough of this in India. Beaches in Chennai used to increasingly have them, about a decade ago.

Touring civet cat coffee plantations – I’ve heard a ton of people who have visited these plantations in Indonesia and Philippines. They proudly pose for photos while pretending to extract the coffee from the poop. Have you ever wondered what conditions these civets are kept in and the way they are treated in order to get your most expensive cup of coffee?

Charming snakes and kissing cobras – The ultimate test of who is the bravest of them all, is it? But did you know that these snakes that are apparently ‘friendly’ have their tongues cut off and their fangs plucked out just so  they don’t do anything ‘inappropriate’!

Farming crocodiles – These reptiles remain in demand just for their skin and meat. Pub Street in Siem Reap, for instance, serves crocodile pizza and the likes.

Narcissism has been taken to a whole new level. We’ve lost the fear of hurting other beings just so that we get the most number of likes on Facebook and seem a whole lot cooler than our friends.

While we have people beating their chests and fighting for animal rights, on one hand, there is still this sort of a rampage that negates all those efforts. Every other day we have one or two species going extinct or becoming endangered. The way it looks, it seems like we are next in line.

Believe you me, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. We need to mend our ways sooner or later before we prove Newton right.

_

Image source: Torrista Until I die | Twitter
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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