(UR) Dominican Republic — In the latest in what seems to be a growing trend for 2016, a shark has died after being dragged from the water by tourists and resort workers in the Dominican Republic — for no better reason than a photo op.
Over the weekend, footage surfaced of an adult blue shark — while tangled in the rope of a life preserver just off the shore — being hauled onto the beach by several men before being used as a prop for video and photographs.
Some of those involved in the animal’s death were workers at the nearby Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana. Stacy Sorino, spokesperson for the hotel, told animal advocate publication The Dodo that “corrective measures” will be taken against employees who had a hand in the incident.
“That is absolutely against our standards of protecting animals as we protect our guests,” Sorino said.
After being dragged onto the beach with the very ropes that had ensnared it, the video shows, the creature thrashes helplessly on the sand before being pulled further still from the only thing that could actually save it — the ocean.
Once high on the beach, the weakening animal flips onto its back. Then, in an apparent effort to safeguard against personal injury, the men shove the life preserver — the very object that initiated the unfortunate event — around the shark’s neck.
By this point, the fight in the animal is all but gone, as it slowly suffocates. The fish’s suffering is apparently of little concern, however, as people proceed to pose for photographs with the dead — or dying — creature and then post those images on social media.
In one photo, uploaded to Facebook user Gary Stokes’ profile, nine men — while pinning the animal onto the sand — are seen smiling for the camera. One of them even gives a thumbs up, as if hauling dying marine life from the ocean is somehow heroic.
In another image, a man holds the shark’s tailfin and points to its head while grinning.
More troubling still, another photo shows a group of men, similarly giddy, along with four children. One of the smiling kids is even flashing the peace sign.
But the most disquieting aspect of this event is that it’s far from an isolated occurrence — particularly, for whatever reason, in 2016.
In Buenos Aires back in February, a baby dolphin died after being pulled from the water and passed around among a swarm of beachgoers desiring selfies.
“This is more than upsetting,” Lori Morino, of the Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy, told the Huffington Post. “It is an indictment of how our species treats other animals — as objects for our benefit, as props, as things with value only in relation to us. This is a terribly painful story but it goes on, writ large, every day all over the world.”
Days later, in Florida, a man was filmed dragging a shark onto the beach and then holding it down for over a minute while onlookers snapped photographs. Luckily, in that case, the animal survived.
In March, a Bulgarian tourist in Macedonia was photographed yanking a swan from the waters of Lake Ohrid. Subsequent photos suggest a selfie was the sole motivating factor. Reports were mixed as to whether the bird survived the encounter.
Cases such as these highlight growing concern over what some have deemed the “selfie culture.” The relatively recent phenomenon has led to mainstream new outlets such as CNN running stories titled, “Do selfies erode our humanity?”
Galen Guengerich, writing for the Washington Post, put it rather succinctly in 2014:
“With smartphone in hand, we can now share with others how our narcissism looks to us.”
He goes on to state:
“In a culture defined by the selfie, nothing has lasting value but the self. Which means everyone and everything can be disposed of whenever something better shows up.”
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