Christmas Island’s Facebook Booby Bust

by J.R. Absher, Editor

The Birding Wire

When the Christmas Island tourism board recently promoted its eco-tourism opportunities on social media by posting photographs and descriptions of its most prolific indigenous bird species, it never expected to experience the wrath of Facebook censors.

All the tourism folks from tiny external territory of Australia were trying to do was to promote the annual Bird ‘n’ Nature Week, in addition to highlighting its population of the Abbott’s Booby, Red-footed Booby and Brown Booby.

But Facebook claimed the posting of a Brown Booby chick along with the text: “Some gorgeous shots here of some juvenile boobies,” breached its decency guidelines, and it promptly removed the horribly offending photograph and copy.

According to Travel Daily News, a subsequent appeal from Christmas Island Tourism Association to Facebook failed to gain traction with the behemoth Internet social-networking site.

“We presumed our original advert was blocked automatically so we appealed to Facebook directly who re-affirmed the campaign was banned due to the sexual language, particularly the use of the word ‘boobies,'” said Linda Cash, the association’s marketing manager.

Fortunately, the Facebook Boobie Bust has made no significant impact to birding-related tourism to the island, and accommodations for the special event were booked solid for weeks, reported Ms. Cash.

The tiny Australian territory located 360 miles south of Java has been called “Australia’s Galapagos” and renowned British naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough called footage of him being overrun by red crabs during Christmas Islands annual crab migration in 1990 one of his top 10 most memorable experiences.

Travel Daily News reports that with the closure of the island’s Detention Center, its 1,350 permanent residents have turned to eco-tourism – and particularly to international birders. As a result, one of the key promotions has been the Bird ‘n’ Nature Week every September, attracting bird enthusiasts from around the globe to see the island’s endemic landbirds and 80,000 nesting seabirds — including the endangered Abbott’s Booby.

Sam Collins, founder of London‘s Ethos Travel, the first UK company to offer travel to the island, said Bird ‘n’ Nature Week is one of the best times to visit the island and the economy there is becoming increasingly reliant on holiday travelers from the UK and the rest of Europe.

Christmas Island tourism is in its infancy, but there are few places in the world where you can find such a magical concentration of rare species of sea and land animals.” He said. “By blocking the tourist board’s campaign, one of the world’s great eco-tourism destinations is being deprived of its lifeline because someone at Facebook cannot comprehend that a Booby is a bird. Dare I say it, but with so many Boobies to see, it is like all your Christmases come at once.”

We’d have to agree, there’s so many Boobies, and so little time.