The trade and private ownership of non-domesticated animals has detrimental effects on individual animals and their wild populations. Therefore, there is a need to understand the conditions that motivate and dissuade interest in non-domesticated pet ownership. Past research has demonstrated that the way in which non-domesticated animals are portrayed in images influences the public’s perception that they are suitable as pets. We conducted an online survey of people residing in the United States to investigate how viewing images that could be realistically captured in the zoo and broader tourism industries impact the degree to which people report interest in having that animal as a pet. We focused on two species, reticulated pythons (Malayopython reticulatus) and two-toed sloths (Choloepus hoffmanni), and presented each species in six different visual contexts. After viewing an image, respondents reported interest in pet ownership on a four-point Likert scale. Each species was studied separately in a between-subjects design and results were analyzed using ordinal logistic regression models. Thirty-nine percent of respondents reported interest in sloth pet ownership, and 21% reported interest in python pet ownership. However, contrary to our hypotheses, we found that viewing these species in different visual contexts did not significantly affect survey respondents’ reported interest in having either species as a pet. Generation was a significant predictor of interest in both sloth and python pet ownership, with younger generations reporting more interest in having these species as pets. Male respondents reported more interest in python pet ownership, whereas there were no significant differences between genders regarding interest in sloth ownership. We consider how modern media exposure to animals in unnatural contexts may relate to the generational effect and discuss priorities for future research to better understand the development of individual interests in non-domesticated pet ownership.
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