The global authority on wildlife protection wants scientists to quit cuddling monkeys on Instagram, holding hands with orangutans in films, and palling around with chimpanzees in publicity photos. In a new set of guidelines released last week, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) called on scientists, students, conservationists, and caretakers to stop publishing images that depict themselves in close contact with nonhuman primates.
For years, conservationists have campaigned against movies, ads, and social media posts that portray primates as appealing pets. “There is a causal link between how primates are depicted and whether they survive as wild animals, or [whether] people do terrible things and try to make them pets,” says Duke University anthropologist Brian Hare, who did not work on the guidelines, but called them welcome and “needed.”
Primatologist Siân Waters of Durham University and others grew frustrated by colleagues posing with their study subjects on book jackets, in research talks, and on social media. About 2 years ago, they founded a group within IUCN, the Primate Specialist Group Section for Human-Primate Interactions. Among their first agenda items: establishing best practice guidelines for photographs or videos featuring nonhuman primates.