Yuya Fukano*, Yosuke Tanaka, Masashi Soga


Raising public interest in and conservation activity for threatened species is critically important for successful biodiversity conservation. However, our understanding of what influences the public interest in threatened animals and how the interest induces conservation activities is quite limited. Here, we examined the role of zoos and a television program featuring animated animals in shaping public interest in and support for animals including threatened species from 2011 to 2018 in Japan. Public interest was measured by Internet search volumes and support by donation activity in zoos. Results showed that both zoos and the animated program made a significant contribution to increasing public interest in animals. The spatial distribution of the Google search volume for 92 animals was correlated with that of animals exhibited in zoos. In tandem with this, the broadcast of a Japanese animated TV program featuring animals (Kemono Friends) increased the Google search volume and Wikipedia pageviews for animal species featured in the program. The total increases of search volume and Wikipedia pageviews were estimated to be approximately 4.66 million for 37 species and 1.06 million for 63 species, respectively. Furthermore, after the original broadcasts of the program, we found that animals featured in the animated program had more financial supporters through donations than animals that were not featured. These results are striking because they indicate the increase in public interest led to actual conservation activity by citizens. Overall, our results demonstrate that both zoos and the animated TV program played important roles in promoting public interest in and support for threatened animals. Enhanced collaborations between people in the entertainment industry and conservation entities could contribute greatly to global biodiversity conservation.

Paper Information

: Science of the Total Environment
: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.135352