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Searching for animal pics on Instagram is now a more somber experience

The photo-sharing app is looking to raise awareness of animal tourism.
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Instagram users browsing the photo-sharing app for cute animals will find it a more chastening experience from today.

That's because searches for certain exotic and endangered animals will lead to a warning message telling users that they might be about to view photographs made possible by the abuse of wildlife or their natural habitats.

So if you search for a hashtag like #slothselfie, a warning message may appear reading: "You are searching for a hashtag that may be associated with posts that encourage harmful behavior to animals or the environment."

You can still view the photos should you wish, but only after you've clicked confirming this. Clicking on the "learn more" link will take you through to a help center providing more information about animal exploitation.

So why is Instagram doing this? 

It comes after investigations from National Geographic and World Animal Protection into the growing industry of "wildlife tourism" in the Amazon.

It found animals were being illegally captured, taken from their natural environments, kept in cages and then hauled out for tourists to hold and take selfies with, as the National Geographic explains.

"In many cases animals hugged and cuddled in selfies have been illegally taken from the wild and kept in captivity in deplorable conditions. Other animals that are popular for selfies, like lion and tiger cubs, are speed-bred in captivity and weaned from their mothers much too early. Popular tourist activities like swimming with dolphins or riding elephants, meanwhile, force the animals to undergo a painful taming process, called, in the case of elephants, 'the crush.'"

Instagram is trying to crack down on images where endangered animals are being put up for sale, or animals are being abused. These kind of pictures are banned on Instagram and users are urged to report any they come across.

"The protection and safety of the natural world are important to us and our global community," Instagram says.

"We encourage everyone to be thoughtful about interactions with wild animals and the environment to help avoid exploitation and to report any photos and videos you may see that may violate our community guidelines."

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