In 2009, a guy in St. Petersburg, Russia, uploaded a Vimeo and YouTube video showing him tickling his pet pygmy slow loris - a tiny, threatened Asian primate. The videos went viral almost immediately, garnering millions of views and thousands of comments. It was adorable, interesting, fascinating... everything you'd expect a viral video of an endangered species to be.
Unfortunately, videos like these may be fueling the illegal pet trade of the animals, pushing them towards extinction, according to research.
Researchers analyzed the public's perception of slow lorises by studying more than 12,000 YouTube comments posted over a three-year period in response to the video of the slow loris getting tickled. A majority of the comments were on how cute the little animal was, but a close second were comments expressing a desire to own one of them - or even asking where to get one.
The researchers say that an average of 10 viewers who commented on the video said they wanted a slow loris pet, which suggests a direct link between the animal's online popularity and their illegal trade.