Everyone loves cute animal videos on the internet. I do!
Even seeing lion cubs playing at a rehabilitation center can make you want to hold one. Or, as for some people, think the the idea of having an animal, like a tiger or monkey, brings a symbol of wealth.
However, this type of public display is causing viewers to believe that these cute undomesticated animals could be great pets.
This actually sucks for the animals involved.
For example, according to a recent study, a video of a ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta) went viral a few years ago, and since then the numbers of this endangered mammal has declined significantly.
Well.. the public display hinting that these WILD animals could be treated like pets has caused the wildlife trade for these animals to increase. It has also caused the number of (somehow legal) businesses that hold these animals captive for the public (to interact with/take photos with) to increase.
Since social status has become such a popular obsession, many people would go great lengths to get a photo with a wild animal, like the ring-tailed lemur.
It is important to educate the pubic to not to support places that use animals as props.
Obviously, not all ex situ (zoo-like) facilities that house animals are bad. Many zoos have great programs that help conserve the species they house. Also, most organizations have animals that have been bred in captivity or cannot be released into the wild due to other reasons. However, it is important to research before visiting any operation with wild animals.
Also, the wildlife trade is a harsh business. Animals are ripped from their natural environment, some killed in the process, all for the people who are willing to participate in this type of commerce. It can be very upsetting if you look into what all goes on.
The point of this study by Clarke and Reuter is to spread awareness of how social media can detrimentally hurt a species, just by a single video. The idea is not to prevent people from documenting these animals in the wild, it is to campaign the cons of advertising wild animals to seem not-so-wild.
For more information on this study, you can visit https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0208577