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A fascinating study has been conducted into the effect of internet exposure on endangered species. Using as the starting point a viral YouTube video entitled “tickling slow loris” the study analysed more than 12,000 comments over a 33 month period.
Initially more than a quarter of the comments revolved around wanting a slow loris as a pet but over time as the endangered nature of the species coupled with the fact that its bite was poisonous became known, the tone of the comments changed. However, there was concern raised by the authors that the illegal and cruel trade in this endangered species was not sufficiently identified to viewers who simply saw a cute animal being tickled and that this could have exacerbated the illegal trade in these animals. In their conclusions the authors recommended that Web 2.0 sites provided a “mechanism via which illegal animal material can be identified and policed.”
The study also shone the spotlight on the way in which general perceptions can be changed through information and education. This may have been a video about one species but it also teaches us in business and the wider world about the way in which opinions can hold sway and in which lack of information can lead to incorrect assumptions and conclusions. Leaders who are trying to change their company culture may just want to take a leaf out of the slow loris’s book and make sure that communications paint the full picture or rumour and incorrect assumptions may sink progress.