The move is designed to prevent accidents and to discourage visitors from disturbing the animals.
Zoologist Anton Weissenbacher told the ORF website that zoo staff had noticed an increase in the number of tourists and school children using the sticks to get closer to the animals when taking photos. “They’re reaching inside the enclosures with the sticks and even trying to get across some of the fences,” he said.
“This is not only the animals’ territory, it’s also their home. They’re not used to the sudden appearance of an unknown object. Some animals are curious and want to investigate it and others are just afraid,” he added.
A series of cartoons on certain enclosures will serve to remind visitors that selfie sticks are a no-no. The main animals to have been affected so far are the seals, sea lions, and Humboldt penguins, as it’s easy to poke a selfie stick through the barriers of their enclosures. “Seals can bite the phone – which isn’t healthy for them. And some selfie sticks have a loop which the animals can grab hold off and pull on – which could cause accidents,” Weissenbacher said. He added that the ban could be extended in the future and that other zoos have already outlawed selfie sticks altogether.
Many Vienna museums now have a ban on selfie sticks, citing safety reasons. The MUMOK art museum recently banned them after becoming concerned that art works could be destroyed if a clumsy visitor pointed a selfie stick in the wrong direction. The Leopold Museum will issue a special permit for the use of a selfie stick but says that in practise this is only for professional photographers or artists working on a specific project.
Museums in Paris have also moved towards banning the popular devices because of the hazard they pose.