On June 16, locals spotted a stranded dolphin at popular tourist destination, Sanya, in Hainan Province, China. The relevant authorities were contacted, but while waiting for help to arrive, people swimming nearby seized the photo op, lifting the dying dolphin out of the water to strike their most flattering poses.

Hours later, aquatic wildlife rescuers arrived at the scene and the dolphin received expert care, but it was too late. Although the fatal injury was most likely not caused by the swimmers’ actions, Chinese netizens took to social media to condemn the inhumanity of the snap-happy swimmers and the incriminating photos went viral.

Commenters on Chinese sites NetEase, Sina and QQ slammed the photo takers. Some of the politer terms used were “bunch of morons” and “beasts”.

Some netizens were so enraged, they wished harm on the photo takers:

“I hope a dolphin comes and drowns them in the water.” (QQ)

“I suggest we hunt them down on the internet. String them up and death by a thousand cuts.” (QQ)

Others took a more balanced view of events:

“Seeing how the comments are almost completely one-sided in criticism/condemnation, I think our nation still has hope!” (Sina)

“Just by their looks they don’t look like good people~” (NetEase)

“Rather than immediately thinking of saving a life, they selfishly took photos. I feel ashamed for the characters of my compatriots.” (Sina)

Some say the dolphin bled to death as a result of serious injuries probably inflicted by a boat. Others contend that the dolphin had inhaled too much water, and the swimmers were trying to help it breathe by holding its blow hole well clear of the sea.

Obviously, it’s hard to know what to do when faced with a marine mammal in distress. And the best thing to do (contact the experts) was done. But these guys still come across as narcissistic jerks, posing next to a suffering dolphin.

Photos: ChinaSmack