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How Popular Culture Can Affect  Wildlife

Animals are commonly portrayed in film, television and literature as they often make extremely popular subjects and characters. However, occasionally these characters can influence the reputation and popularity of the real life species they depict. This article looks at how popular culture can affect wildlife.


Jaws was released over 40 years ago in 1975 and the thriller has been enjoyed by many viewers since and is still popular to this day. Almost everyone is familiar with the ominous music that plays whenever the monstrous shark is about to attack one of its many victims in the film. However, the film has received criticism for its portrayal of great white sharks as mindless man-killers. It has been suggested that the film’s depiction of a shark specifically hunting down humans has influenced the public’s perception of these creatures.

Great whites, as well as other species of shark are in fact not interested in eating humans, as the film suggests. Shark attacks do happen, but they are rare and it is now thought that the reason behind them is that these sharks see humans as a competitor or a threat. Many species of shark are now endangered and an improved reputation could aid their conservation. The author of the book that the film was based on; Peter Benchley, has even expressed regret for writing the book and spent much of his later life supporting the protection of sharks.

flickr | George ProbstFinding Nemo

Finding Nemo is the heartwarming story of a clownfish trying to find his lost son in the vast ocean whilst making a number of friends along the way. This animated film has become a favourite among so many, but some suggest that it may be loved a little too much. It has been discovered that the popularity of this film caused a surge in demand for clownfish in people’s home aquariums, which is ironic considering that little Nemo is taken from his father for exactly that reason in the film!

The clownfish, along with other reef species is already under threat from various factors, such as coral bleaching and ocean acidification. It is thought that these pressures along with the growing popularity of clownfish as pets are causing local extinctions of certain populations. Conservation projects have been established almost as a response to this film, which breed clownfish in order to try to encourage recovery of wild populations.

flickr | Jonathan BeestonHarry Potter

All Potter fans are familiar with Harry’s feathery companion, Hedwig the snowy owl. Owls played a fairly big part in the Harry Potter franchise and became loved by all who watched the films. However, new reports suggest that the obsession with the Potter series in countries such as Indonesia and India have led to the illegal sale of owls as pets. The owls being sold are thought to be captured from the wild, this obviously has an effect on the breeding success and population numbers of these birds. It is also stressed that owls cannot survive very well in captivity under improper conditions and wild birds do not make good pets.

flickr | Brian ScottWhile animals in films may be cute and make for exciting and loveable characters, it is important to remain aware of the bigger picture. In reality these animals are often a lot different to how they are represented and can have many wider issues affecting their survival. Of course films such as Finding Nemo are wonderful and should continue to be enjoyed provided viewers are thoughtful and responsible.

By Gabrielle Brooks - Online Journalism Intern

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