Endangered Exotic Pets on Social Media in the Middle East: Presence and Impact
School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Mudla Wirra Road, Roseworthy, SA 5371, Australia
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Received: 21 June 2019 / Revised: 14 July 2019 / Accepted: 20 July 2019 / Published: 24 July 2019
The exotic pet trade is impacted by social media via greater accessibility to photos and videos including these species and the increasing popularity of online animal marketplaces. The social media presence of public figures owning exotic pets has a major influence on exotic species demand. This study aimed to investigate exotic pet popularity, featured species on social media in the Middle East, and public perception of the animals spotlighted by public figures. We discuss the impact of such on the exotic pet trade and possible solutions to this issue. Male public figures from the United Arab Emirates predominated in the collected data, with most posts sourced from Instagram®. Eighty-five percent of the species displayed on social media posts were Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendix I- and II-listed, including big cats, birds of prey, and great apes. Through an investigation of social media posts of public figures in the Middle East, we found that there was an overall positive audience reception toward endangered exotic pets. Geographic region, social media platform, animal species, and animal age all influenced the results. We recommend improving public education and awareness of wildlife conservation and laws regarding exotic pet possession to combat the idolization of the exotic pet industry.