Instagram Fights Illegal Wildlife Exploitation by Warning Users in App

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Put down the selfie stick and step away from the koala.

Starting today, when a person searches for a hashtag associated with harmful behavior to animals or the environment, they will see a content advisory screen.

The new message also warns users that "animal abuse and the sale of endangered animals or their parts is not allowed on Instagram".

Wildlife conservation groups argue animals that users take photos with at tourist sites can actually suffer from human contact.

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Sloth selfies on Instagram - typically brokered by locals in tourist traps like Costa Rica - exploded by almost 300 percent this year since 2014, according to World Animal Protection.

Thousands of photos with the flagged hashtags, which relate to animals including tigers, lions and turtles, feature on Instagram.

"We care about our community, including the animals and the wildlife that are an important part of the platform", Instagram spokeswoman Emily Cain said. Some of them are kept in cages and are only let out to entertain guests, according to researchers from the World Animal Protection.

According to WAP numerous animals who tourists take photos with are stolen from their natural habitat and are then kept in cramped conditions and passed around from tourist to tourist, causing them extreme stress.

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Taking a selfie with a wild animal and uploading it to social media may seem like a harmless thing to do.

A stranded baby dolphin washed up on a beach in Spain famously died of dehydration in August after crowds descended to touch it and take pictures.

Instagram doesn't plan on revealing all of the hashtags associated with the message so that users can stumble upon it during their searches.

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