Apparently, Dan Bilzerian missed the memo: Endangered Galápagos tortoises are not Instagram photo props. The so-called “King of Instagram” posted a photo online of a woman straddling a tortoise—the way you’d straddle a motorcycle—while he leans down, seemingly to try to feed the reptile. He captioned the photo “600 lb, 100 yr old Galapagos tortoise, what an awesome animal.”
The photo garnered thousands of comments, many of them angry at the lack of respect Bilzerian and his female friend showed the majestic endangered animal. One comment read, “Would anyone be comfortable when someone all the sudden sits on you? Don’t think so.. Understand the word ENDANGERED??? Get a life..” Another Instagrammer commented, “Observe from afar, take pictures, but other than that, leave them alone. They are not our toys.” We couldn’t agree more.
This isn’t the first time that the professional poker player has posted photos of himself with wild animals on Instagram. Just a day earlier, he posted a picture of himself with two lemurs on his shoulders, captioning the photo “Shoutout to @richardbranson for being rich enough to buy a private island and make it an endangered animal sanctuary.”
Both photos appear to have been taken on Necker Island, a private island in the British Virgin Islands owned by Sir Richard Branson. According to the Turtle Conservancy, Branson is “focused on the global extinction crisis specifically with lemurs and tortoises.” Neither Branson nor Virgin Limited Edition—the company that operates the Necker Island property—has commented on Bilzerian’s posts.
Wowing Your Instagram Followers Is Not Worth Endangering an Animal
Animals are not photo props. They’re routinely injured, exploited, and even killed because of human vanity. Turtles are beaten by crowds, sharks are dragged from the ocean to die, and baby tigers are torn away from their mothers—just so that people can take photos with them. And what do these photos achieve? “Likes”? “Shares”? If there’s any risk that your photo is going to harm or stress an animal, it’s not worth it.
What You Can Do
Enjoy your vacation but not at the expense of an animal’s welfare. Leave wildlife in peace.