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Let’s be honest, we all love taking selfies. If we think we look particularly good one day or are doing something super amazing that just needs to be shared with others, selfies are a great way to share these “important” life events with others. But, sometimes, selfies aren’t so innocent.

While this news might seem more than a bit ridiculous, it illustrates the sad reality of what can happen when we involve wild animals in our selfie sessions.

Every month, thousands of sea turtles flood the shores of Costa Rica to lay their eggs. There is no doubt that this is an incredible natural spectacle, but unfortunately, this year hundreds of tourists, eager to take pictures joined the turtles on shores of the Ostional Wildlife Refuge.

Except, they didn’t exactly stop and take pictures of the process from a distance … they stood on the shore, effectively blocking the turtles from reaching land, and some even went as far as to place children on the backs of turtles to snap a photo.

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The migration of these turtles, the olive ridley sea turtle which is listed as vulnerable to extinction, is critical to their survival.

“So many people were on the beach that some turtles returned without completing the nesting process,” Leonel Delgado, secretary of the Union of Workers of the Ministry for the Environment and Energy, told La Nacion. “That certainly is a negative impact.”

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According to Costa Rican Times, during the turtle’s monthly processions, “The area is protected by guards, guides and guidelines that human visitors should respect, for the safety of the animals and to ensure they continue using this beach.”

They continue, “It’s important not to touch the animals or stand in their way for any reason. Follow the guides to avoid standing on top of a nest, crushing the eggs before the little guys even have a chance. Pictures with flash are also prohibited.”

This strict protocol certainly doesn’t seem to have been in place…

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An investigation was launched to find out why so many tourists were allowed on the refuge in the first place. Initial findings state that the park’s rangers were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tourists. There were only two guards and three national police officers present to control a swath of four miles.

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The Inquisitor reports that, adding insult to injury,” Costa Rica’s government allows a small amount of the eggs to be harvested. But due to the selfish actions of the amazed crowd, the number of turtles hatched will diminish. Reaching deep into the nests, locals are able to grab handfuls of the soft-shelled eggs and collect them in trash bags.”

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Tragically, this entire incident is going to have serious consequences on the population of sea turtles and any animals dependent on them for survival. At the end of the day finding someone specific to blame is just putting a band-aid on an open wound. If the tourists wanted to stand on the far side of the beach and take video or non-flash photography that would have been just fine.

While it’s true that we learn the most about animals when we observe them in their natural habitats, this is the exact opposite of what we should be doing. We can get angry at the authorities for not being prepared for something like this all we want, but the true fault lies with the inability of all these people to understand how their actions could impact the animals around them.

We can all do our part by being more conscious of how the choices we make every day impact the world around us. Simply learning to respect and not interfere with wildlife might seem like a small thing, but as this story shows – it could save thousands of lives.

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