Hol­ly­wood is driv­ing species to ex­tinc­tion

Are peo­ple re­ally in­spired to buy en­dan­gered species just be­cause they’ve seen them on the big screen?

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - WILD NEWS - WANT TO COM­MENT? Email wildlifele­t­[email protected]­me­di­ate.co.uk

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.

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