Every day, the average American teen with a TikTok account spends 82 minutes scrolling through videos. If they love animals, they may find their feed filling up with a stream of irresistible critters doing irresistibly cute things—from puppies, rabbits, cats to slow lorises, monkeys, chimpanzees, and tigers.
After all, who doesn’t love a cute video of a domestic cat pouncing on its owner’s head? But animal-loving young people can also inadvertently get served a regular stream of problematic wildlife content without even realizing it.
Hands-on exotic wildlife videos on platforms like TikTok and YouTube are hugely popular and may seem innocuous. But they’re part of a spectrum of online content depicting animal exploitation both explicit—platforms have become hot spots for for the illegal wildlife trade—and implicit, in the form of photos and videos that normalize keeping exotic wild animals as pets and props.