“Let Me Take a Selfie”: Implications of Social Media for Public Perceptions of Wild Animals

In: Society & Animals
Christian LenziETICOSCIENZA Association, Turin, Italy

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Siobhan SpeiranThe Lives of Animals Research Group, School of Environmental Studies, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON

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Chiara GrassoETICOSCIENZA Association, Turin, Italy

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Social media is a powerful tool for sharing information and awareness campaigns concerning environmental issues, especially as they pertain to the conservation of wild, nonhuman animals (henceforth, “animals”). This form of online engagement is a double-edged sword, however, since it can facilitate the legal and illegal trade of wild species, and promote harmful tourism encounters with wild animals. This review spans multiple disciplines and presents some key literature to date examining how public perceptions of wild animals are influenced by social media. This includes discussions of “viral” videos, “wildlife selfies,” changing trends in animal encounters at wildlife tourism destinations, and the influence of social media on the wildlife trade. Avenues for future research are suggested with urgency; the adverse effects of social media are understudied, yet bear serious consequences for the individual welfare and species conservation of wild animals.

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