The popularization of exotic pets on celebrity social media in the Middle East has led to questionable impacts on exotic pet demand and threats to species conservation. The objective of this study was to identify exotic animal species featured on Middle Eastern celebrity social media account posts, the public perception of those posts, and their potential impacts on exotic pet demand and conservation (for global-scale extrapolation). Public social media accounts of highly influential persons from oil-rich Middle Eastern regions were manually investigated to evaluate subject demographics, species features, and post information (likes, comments) between January 2017 and August 2018. Twenty-five subjects possessed active social media accounts, from which 418 social media posts were extracted based on their inclusion of a privately owned exotic animal. SPSS Version 25 was used for frequency and descriptive analyses of these posts, in addition to comment analyses to evaluate quantitative (emojis) and qualitative (text) audience perceptions from a total of 10 social media posts of CITES Appendix I-or II-listed species. A greater frequency of positive than negative comments was observed (n = 8017), demonstrating the higher likelihood of social media promotion rather than negation of the exotic pet trade. Public education on wildlife conservation and exotic animal trade risks is imperative for successful conservation and welfare protection.
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- Digital epidemiology
- Exotic pet trade
- Online influence