The Impact of ‘Selfie’ Tourism on the Behaviour and Welfare of Brown-Throated Three-Toed Sloths
World Animal Protection, London WC1X 8HB, UK
Aiunau Foundation, Circular 1ª, No. 73—20. Medellín, Colombia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2018, 8(11), 216; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani8110216
Received: 30 August 2018 / Revised: 3 November 2018 / Accepted: 5 November 2018 / Published: 19 November 2018
(This article belongs to the Section Wildlife)
The use of wild animals as photo props is a potential animal welfare concern that is prevalent across Latin America. The present study documents animal welfare concerns associated with the use of wild caught brown-throated three-toed sloths (Bradypus variegatus) for wildlife ‘selfies’ by tourists at three locations in Manaus, Brazil and Puerto Alegria and Iquitos in Peru. Between 4 October 2016 and 8 April 2017 researchers attended 34 tours, where 17 sloths were observed. The sloths were; (1) held on average by 5 people (during each observation); (2) frequently exposed to physical manipulation of the head and/or limbs; and (3) frequently held by their claws. During handling the sloth’s behaviour was also analysed; we found that the two behaviours performed for the longest average duration of time were surveillance (55.3%) and limb stretching (12.6%). Further validation is needed; however, it is possible that some of the behaviours displayed may be indicators of fear, stress and anxiety. Our results describe behaviours exhibited by sloths, which have previously never been documented in any published literature, the data therefore serves as a potential baseline for future study.
The use of wild animals as photo props is prevalent across the globe and is widely recognised to represent a potential animal welfare concern. However, detailed information regarding the specific impacts of such activity on wild animal behaviour is currently lacking. Herein, we investigated how brown-throated three-toed sloths (Bradypus variegatus) were handled by tourists, and how sloths behaved during wildlife ‘selfies’ taken in Manaus, Brazil and Puerto Alegria and Iquitos in Peru. In total, we observed 17 sloths (during 70 focal observations) that were provided for use in wildlife selfies on 34 different tours. We found that an average number of 5 people held each sloth during each focal observation. For 48.6% of the time the sloths were handled in a way which involved physical manipulation of the sloths’ head and/or limbs and/or being held by the claws. From the eight different types of sloth behaviour observed, we found that the two types performed for the longest average duration of time were surveillance (55.3%) and limb stretching (12.6%). Our findings show that when being handled sloths were frequently held in ways that may compromise their welfare. Although to date the behaviour of sloths while being handled has not been reported in any published literature, in this study we document certain behaviours which may act as indicators of compromised welfare. We suggest that our data provides a potential baseline for future study into the behaviour and welfare of sloths.