- Maria Island lies just off the coast of Tasmania.
- It is home to many wombats.
- People like to take selfies with the little creatures, but this could be having a negative effect on them.
- Visitors are greeted with a pledge that reads “I will not chase you with my selfie stick, or get too close to your babies.”
- It’s unclear how much stress photos can cause, because animals don’t always show obvious signs.
The wildlife in Australia is like no other place in the world. Yes, there are spiders so big and disgusting they make grown adults scream out like they’re committing a murder, but it is also home to some of the cutest animals you can imagine.
Just off the coast of Tasmania is Maria Island, which doesn’t have any human inhabitants, but does have a lot of wombats. The island has become a tourist hotspot, with many visitors wanting to take selfies with the furry marsupials.
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Wombat selfie from yesterday and they believed my backpack had fresh grass !!! ——————— #selfie #animalselfie #wildlife #animal #wombat #outdoor #mariaisland #iloveaustralia #exploring_australia #ig_australia #australiagram #nikonaustralia #wow #wow_australia #wow_australia2018 #tasmania #tasmaniagram #friday #outdoorphotography #discovertasmania #tasmaniaparks #eastcoasttasmania #seeaustralia
But on arrival, people are now greeted with signs of the pledge they have to take to be respectful to the wildlife.
“I take this pledge to respect and protect the furred and feathered residents of Maria,” it reads. “I will remember you are wild and pledge to keep you this way.”
About wombats in particular, the pledge says:
“When you trundle past me I pledge I will not chase you with my selfie stick, or get too close to your babies. I will not surround you, or try and pick you up. I will make sure I don’t leave rubbish or food from my morning tea. I pledge to let you stay wild.”
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Say hello to our new friend Wilbur the wombat. It’s so fluffy I'm gonna die! ???? : : #mariaisland #tassiestyle #discovertasmania #wilburthewombat #wombat #cutenessoverload #wildanimal #hessofluffy #scratchyscratch #seeaustralia #abcmyphoto #roadtrip #travelling #hatchbacktraveller #instavacation #holiday #getaway #travelaustralia #travelbug #wanderlust #love #happiness #livingourbestlife
John Fitzgerald, the CEO of Tasmania Tourism, told CNN Travel there was no particular incident that sparked the pledge, but they have seen more people wanting to have photos of animals and get up close to them.
“We’re asking people to respect the fact that they’re wild animals and respect them for what they are,” he said.
East Coast Tourism chief executive Ruth Dowty told ABC Radio Hobart that wildlife experts say proximity to humans could disturb wombats.
“The tourists are in love with the wombats; so in love that we need to give them some education about how to interact with them,” she said.
- Paul Kane / Shutterstock
In Western Australia, quokkas are also popular photo subjects. The small animals are known for being friendly and unafraid of humans, because they have no natural predators on the islands where they live. This means they often get pretty close to people.
But in December 2017, Instagram introduced a warning on the #quokkaselfie hashtag that states it could be “associated with harmful behaviour to animals or the environment.”
Touching and feeding quokkas is prohibited, but there are no rules about taking selfies. The Rottnest Island Authority asked Instagram to remove its warning, a spokesperson told the BBC last year, because it doesn’t “serve to educate or inform the public about our conservation efforts or direct people to how they might develop a better understanding of this native species.”
It’s unclear what the stress on an animal could be, because they don’t always show obvious signs. But if a quokka is comfortable enough to approach you, taking a picture is probably fine, mammal expert Christine Cooper told the BBC.
“What we don’t want to see is people harassing them and chasing them for a picture,” she said.
In short, if you’re respectful of the wildlife around you, it’s fine to take some pictures. But don’t disturb animals to get your shot, or force them to take a selfie with you.
As the pledge goes: “I vow to explore with a sense of responsibility, adventure and kindness. I will leave your wild island as I found it, and take home memories filled with beauty and my soul filled up with wonder.”