#CuteAnimalTweetOff: Animal Photo Showdown Is Taking Over The Twitterverse With Cuteness

#CuteAnimalTweetOff: Animal Photo Showdown Is Taking Over The Twitterverse With Cuteness

The social media landscape is normally one where arguments over politics, religion, or even sports and entertainment could turn into ugly flame wars. But #CuteAnimalTweetOff is reminding Twitter users that social media can be fun, endearing, and filled with adorable images that could make us forget our troubles, even temporarily. And this hashtag started to trend when a woman simply “challenged” her local aquarium to top the Smithsonian National Zoo’s female seal cub image with some cute photos of their own.

According to a report from USA TODAY, the “battle” of cute animal pictures started on Wednesday when the National Zoo in Washington D.C. posted an image of a four-day-old baby seal on its official Twitter account. About a half-hour later, Norfolk, Virginia woman Sarah Hill chimed in, tweeting the Virginia Aquarium in Virginia Beach and asking officials to post some similarly endearing images.

It didn’t take long either for the Virginia Aquarium to step up to the challenge, posting a photo of a handler with an osprey perched on her arm, observing an otter swimming in an aquarium. Then came the Smithsonian National Zoo’s photo of a baby Bornean orangutan. And it went on, with both establishments trying to trump the other in cuteness, until Sarah Hill decided to make #CuteAnimalTweetOff a thing, opening the challenge up to the public.

Within hours of the original National Zoo tweet, Hill’s challenge found numerous takers among America’s zoos, including the Bronx Zoo, the Philadelphia Zoo, Zoo Atlanta, and Zoo Miami. The ZSL London Zoo in England also took part in the tweet-off, albeit several hours later. And Twitter users have largely been better for it, retweeting the photos and using the #CuteAnimalTweetOff hashtag as they shared the images with their followers.

The Smithsonian National Zoo is no stranger to receiving attention for its cute baby animals. One of the most celebrated such animals is Bei Bei, a giant panda cub who was born in the summer of 2015 and was named after U.S. and Chinese first ladies Michelle Obama and Peng Liyuan for the Chinese word for “treasure,” according to BBC. In November 2016, Bei Bei underwent emergency surgery to remove a lemon-sized morsel of bamboo from his intestines, and as of earlier this month, the National Zoo wrote that he has continued to recover successfully, and is receiving “several bamboo feedings every day.”

ABC News was able to interview the woman behind the #CuteAnimalTweetOff, Sarah Hill, as she shared the reason behind the hashtag. According to her Twitter account, Hill co-hosts the pop culture show Popped on Radio Free Radio.

“Yep, I instigated the hashtag. The National Zoo tweeted out a picture of their adorable new seal pup, and I thought, ‘Oh, we have cuter seals than that here in Virginia.’ So I tweeted it to our aquarium, and they ran with it. Then everyone else jumped on board because, really, who could turn down a cute critter competition?”

Hill also told ABC News that she’s been pleasantly surprised that her simple actions have led to such a tremendous response from the world’s zoos.

“I am absolutely overwhelmed by the response,” Hill continued. “It’s so wonderful to take back Twitter for something positive. I thought maybe two or three zoos and/or aquariums would respond, but wow. I’m getting Twitter notifications from zoos around the world showing off their adorable residents. Best day ever.”

And while #CuteAnimalTweetOff may have distracted people who may be otherwise focusing on more important things, Sarah Hill believes it’s all been for good, as it’s convincing people to support animal conservation groups, and making people smile, thereby distracting them in a positive way.

“I mean, look how happy it’s making people.”

[Featured Image by Win McNamee/Getty Images]