Professional primate keepers and online primate imagery: an assessment of knowledge and attitudes
Keywords:Instagram, Pet trade, social media, zookeeper
In January 2021, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Primate Specialist Group Section for Human Primate Interactions (IUCN PSG SHPI) published best practice guidelines on the use of non-human primate imagery online. This paper explores the contribution of professional primate keepers to the detrimental online sharing of images involving humans and primates, and their knowledge and opinions towards this subject. A total of 421 primate keepers responded to an online questionnaire shared in March 2021, providing information about their use of primate imagery on social media platforms and sharing their understanding of scientific studies on this topic. Over half (56%) of primate keepers admitted to sharing images online of themselves and primates, that could be considered irresponsible. A complementary review of posts shared on Instagram™ under the hashtag #primatekeeper revealed that 64% of 128 images surveyed depicted primates in situations which prior research has shown to have negative consequences for primate conservation, in addition to affecting the way the public perceives the conservation status of species in such imagery. Of the respondents, 53% had not heard of the IUCN PSG SHPI, and 67% of primate keepers were unaware of the new guidelines published by the group. It is recommended that the best practice guidelines are disseminated to zookeepers directly through appropriate forums to ensure primate keepers are acting in line with the recommendations in the best practice guidelines, and that further research is conducted regarding human-primate two-shot images to better guide decisions made by primatologists and others working both in and ex situ with primates.