Well shit, we’d better shut Grist List down, because science has shown that cute animal videos don’t get people any more invested in conservation than they were before. At least, this is true for videos of slow lorises, which don’t do a damn thing to improve people’s knowledge about the illegal slow loris trade (and, in fact, make many people express the desire to have one as a pet).
Really, the study’s conclusions are less about cute animal videos, and more about how people persistently cling to ignorance:
We showed a clear temporal change in some views expressed but without an apparent increase in knowledge about the conservation plight of the species, or the illegal nature of slow loris trade. Celebrity endorsement of videos showing protected wildlife increases visits to such sites, but does not educate about conservation issues. The strong desire of commentators to express their want for one as a pet demonstrates the need for Web 2.0 sites to provide a mechanism via which illegal animal material can be identified and policed.
(To be fair, the study also found that “I want one as a pet!” remarks leveled off after people started dropping conservation knowledge in the YouTube comments, and “Two conservation-related events, linked to Wikipedia and the airing of a television documentary, led to an increase in awareness, and ultimately to the removal of the analysed video.”)
This all might be because watching a slow loris enjoy scritches helps you get through the day, and watching this … fucking doesn’t:
Oh good, now I’m thoroughly depressed. I better go watch some baby fruit bats; so far science hasn’t given me any reason not to.