A baby dolphin has died after tourists surrounded the distressed animal in order to pose with her for photographs off the coast of Spain.
The small female dolphin, who became separated from her mother, was found in shallow waters near to a busy tourist beach in southern Spain.
Marine conservationists said that tourists gathered around the frightened mammal in order to stroke her and take pictures.
When rescue workers from Equinac, a group which protects marine wildlife in the area, arrived on the beach 15 minutes after the distressed dolphin was first spotted, she had already died from heart and lung failure caused by stress.
The group posted on Facebook: “Humans are the most irrational animal there is. Many people are unable to feel empathy for a living being which is frightened, starving hungry, without its mother and terrified.
“In their selfishness, all they want is to photograph it and touch it, even if the animal is suffering from stress.”
The group posted two photos of the incident, one of tourists touching the dolphin and another of rescuers removing the animal after she died.
Animal welfare advocates have spoken out about the incident and tourists showing a “fatal disregard for life”.
Elisa Allen, Peta UK’s director, said: “Another victim has been added to the growing list of ‘animal selfie’ fatalities – this time, a baby dolphin.
“In order to take a photo, these holidaymakers, who should now be locked up, showed a naïve – and ultimately fatal – disregard for life.
“Dolphins are highly sensitive, self-aware individuals, and one can only imagine the trauma endured not only by this young dolphin, who was misused and prodded like a stuffed toy, but also by the grieving dolphin family who was left behind.”
Equinac said that cetaceans are very susceptible to stress, which is exacerbated by close contact with humans.
The group also said that children who were stroking the dolphin had unintentionally covered her blowhole.
The incident happened last Friday on a beach at Mojacar.
Chiara Vitali, wildlife campaigns manager at World Animal Protection, said: “While on holiday tourists must remember that your once in a lifetime photo opportunity with a wild animal can mean a horrific suffering - and in this case death - for that animal.
“Using wild animals for entertainment purposes, including catching them to take selfies, is wrong and causes distress to the animal.
“No wild animal wants to hugged and held by humans. They want to be living free in the wild where they belong.”
Marine conservationists said that they were not blaming tourists for the dolphin becoming separated from her mother, but that she would have experienced a “very high stress state” by being touched by humans.
They urged tourists not to “rush to take pictures of a frightened and weak dolphin”, but instead to call rescuers immediately.