Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2018

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Anthropology

First Advisor

Michelle Sauther

Second Advisor

Carla Jones

Third Advisor

Sarah Massey-Warren

Abstract

My research explores the ways in which social media is responsible for perpetuating the trafficking of primates and supporting the pet trade by circulating problematic images of primates and thus influencing the public’s opinion about primate conservation. By applying the assumptions which make up ethnoprimatology, primate conservation, and the scholarship on the primate pet trade to the context of social media, I examine the type of content regarding primates available (and popular) on social media sites, how this content can negatively influence the public’s opinion about primates, and what positive actions have been taken (and succeeded) to instead post accurate and helpful information about primates and their conservation statuses. In examining these three components in conjunction with the perceptions of primate researchers gathered through questionnaires and interviews, I argue that social media is an effective platform for educating the public about the realities of the primate pet trade and conservation. I discover many photos of people holding and posing with primates, many of which are celebrities or Influencers on social media, suggesting that basic knowledge about primates and their conservation is lacking. I find that “cuteness” and what I call the “industry of cute” are key motivating factors in one’s desire to own a primate and harnessing “cuteness” instead for primate conservation can be an effective approach.

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