Vibrant waterhole infant of our camp In Hwange with Giraffe, Zebras and Elephants (photo via paulafrench / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

We understand the excitement of seeing an animal in the wild, capturing it on your phone and sharing it on social media. However, for those who geotag their picture, it can unintentionally put these animals and wildlife areas at risk.

Geotagging a picture is the process by which you knowingly or unknowingly share the location of your photo on social media through GPS technology.

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While geotagging may seem like a harmless thing, it’s actually a method by which poachers are using to hunt wildlife.

Banda Sherwin of African Travel, Inc. said, “Poachers are now using unsuspecting tourists to hunt their prey. While on safari, tourists post photos of animals to social media sites, not realizing that embedded within the post or the photo is a Geotag containing the GPS location of the photo or the poster.”

Similarly, geotags are attracting more and more people to natural areas and landscapes, and this can do a lot of harm to the land. This happened with Delta Lake, a remote place in the Grand Tetons, which was overwhelmed with visitors after social influencers geotagged the destination on social media.

“Influencers started posting from the top of the lake. Then it started racing through social media,” Brian Modena, a tourism-board member from Jackson Hole, told The New York Times in 2018.

He added that only a few hikers would make the nine-mile journey to Delta Lake each day, but because of geotagging and social influencers, currently, about 145 people hike that same route per day causing more erosion and traffic on the smaller trails.

“We want people to have a real connection to nature,” Modena said, “not just a page with a pin on it.”

Tourism boards and groups like Hikers For An 8th Leave No Trace Principle are calling on people to not use geotags or use more broader tags like the county, state or country, making it harder for tourists to find a location or poachers from hunting precious wildlife. You can even disable geotags on your phone so that you don’t unknowingly geotag a photo.

“There are a lot of reasons why people want to showcase where they have been. Bragging rights. It’s an unusual place.” Dana Watts, the executive director of Leave No Trace, told The New York Times. “We just want people to stop and think before they share a location.”

“While tagging can seem innocent,” she noted, “it can lead to significant impact.”