Do social media users’ interactions with the elderly Tsushima leopard cat at Kyoto City Zoo translate into changes in conservation behaviour?
Keywords:conservation actions, conservation education, death education, elderly animal, social media
The exhibition of elderly animals in Japan has the potential to promote the formation of personal connections between visitors and animals and behavioural change such as increased conservation behaviour. This study focused on social media and investigated whether the connection between elderly animals (Tsushima leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis euptilurus; an endangered species in Japan, individual died in September 2020) and visitors is related to self-reported conservation behaviour of visitors and social media users at Kyoto City Zoo. Information about the care of elderly animals was disseminated on several social media sites at least once a month for about six months before the death of the leopard cat. The information also included messages about conservation, especially after the death of the target animal. Surveys were conducted 1?3 months after the individual’s death. The questionnaire contained both closed-response items (e.g., gender, age, frequency of zoo visits, experience with animal keeping and frequency of browsing zoo’s social media) and open-ended questions (e.g., ‘types of conservation behaviour’, ‘lifestyle changes’ and ‘impressions of the target animal’). Responses (n=180) indicate respondents’ interest in conservation activities and formation of personal connections with the target animal. Involvement in conservation activities is related to animal keeping status and social media use. Specifically, social media dissemination of information contributed to forming a connection between viewers and the animal. These results suggest that elderly animal exhibits with conservation messages are effective in encouraging pet owners and social media users to form personal connections with target animals and to participate in conservation activities.
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