The Danger of Cell Connection at KNP

Are Selfies contributing to the endangerment of species?

Do you remember how comforting the Kruger was 30 years ago, when you and your new spouse arrived at the park for a non-conventional honeymoon? The warmth of the sun and the vague sound of all sorts of chatty animals filled the air with peace and purity. Flash forward 30 years and the pulse of the Kruger has been poached, stolen and warped into the morgue of a new predator.

Exposing an animal's coordinates can be done accidentally, due to ignorance of the relevant technologies.

Kruger National Park General Manage,r Ike Phaahla, has urged visitors not to share selfies (or other photos) of endangered species on social media channels. Something as innocent as a selfie can be incredibly detrimental to the preservation of already endangered species, such as rhinos and elephants.

The danger of selfies lies in the fact that your cell’s geolocation can be tracked by poachers, potentially providing increased opportunities for this heinous crime to be committed. With poachers adopting malicious technological methods to track animals, we need to be aware of the danger that we as ‘touring photographers’ potentially pose to wildlife.

Exposing an animal’s coordinates can be done accidentally, due to ignorance of the relevant technologies. Many smartphones and GPS-enabled cameras automatically implant geotagged data that provides the physical coordinates of exactly where the photo was taken.  When the geotagged photo is uploaded to a social media site, the animal is immediately made vulnerable.

Just last year, Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy, stated that more than half of the 318 poaching incidences in South Africa, between January and June, happened in the Kruger National Park.

We can all play a part and make a positive difference by following some simple guidelines that will ensure that we don’t place any animal at risk when sharing photos, but rather help to protect them from preying poachers:

We can all play a part and make a positive difference by following some simple guidelines that will ensure that we don’t place any animal at risk when sharing photos, but rather help to protect them from preying poachers:

Refrain from mentioning the animal’s location in your post and gallery

Mentioning the animal’s location is a no-go. If you choose to manage your gallery using different folders, title the folders with very vague names.

Strip your location metadata

We tend to rely heavily on our cell phones to capture our life-experiences and surroundings. With technology constantly advancing, smartphones have built-in GPS, which means your coordinates can be tracked to the tee. It is vital that you turn your device’s location feature off, to prevent information concerning your location being imbedded in the photos’ metadata. Find out more about how to turn off your devices geo-location.

Bring the animals’ plight to light

Make the world aware of the animal’s dire circumstances. Conduct research about the animal you are posting to your social media feed. You could even go so far as to donate the pictures to animal conservationists, as they could use these in awareness campaigns and for counting purposes. Monitoring and tracking the population of a species can prove to be rather difficult due to a number of factors such as the vastness of land, accessibility, the density of vegetation, etc. These pictures may prove to be of vital importance for the preservation of an animal’s population.

Bring the animals' plight to light
These pictures may prove to be of vital importance for the preservation of an animal’s population.

The fact that poachers are now using such technologically sophisticated methods to further their objectives is of great concern, especially when you consider that it is estimated that, by 2029, the number of visitors to the Park will double to 3.65 million per year! For this reason, the danger of posting geo-tagged photos must be brought to the attention of tourists and the general public.

We must then pose the question: is merely cutting cell connection enough to curb the danger of human being’s most dangerous weapon…narcissism?

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