Hollywood is driving species to extinction
Are people really inspired to buy endangered species just because they’ve seen them on the big screen?
NO, ACCORDING TO NEW RESEARCH. After the 2003 release of Finding Nemo, the blockbuster movie about a lost clownfish, newspapers reported that tropical reef fish populations were being plundered to satisfy a surge in demand. Campaigns were launched; celebrities and conservationists jumped on board. Since then, other films, too, have been accused of triggering a ‘Nemo effect’ – the Harry Potter series, Zootopia and Finding Dory reportedly threatened wild populations of owls, fennec foxes and blue tang fish.
“These stories are often based on a single pet shop saying that they’re suddenly seeing high demand for blue tangs or owls or whatever,” says University of Oxford researcher Diogo Veríssimo. “We have to be incredibly careful about generalising from such reports.”
Indeed, his research finds little evidence for an increase in either demand or supply. Instead, he says that post-release spikes in online searches for the species probably reflect an upswing of awareness.
Unquestioning belief in the Nemo effect can have undesirable consequences, not least for livelihoods, Veríssimo says. “Some Pacific island states have clamped down on trade with marine aquaria based on this perceived effect.” S Blackman
There are fewer people trying to find Nemo than you might think.