National Geographic animals desk executive editor Rachael Bale told Adweek, “When someone on Instagram posts a photo of them with their ‘pet’ cheetah, it gets a lot of attention. What people don’t realize is that there’s no commercial cheetah breeding for pets—nearly every one was taken from the wild illegally.”
The goal of the #ThinkBeforeYouLike campaign is to educate people on platforms including Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok on what they can do to help save cheetah cubs from being trafficked on social media, as those social platforms are often used as marketplaces.
“People see a photo on Instagram of someone playing with a cheetah cub and think, ‘Cute,’ and then they like or share it,” Bale said. “The problem is that, first, that cheetah was almost certainly taken from the wild illegally, and second, liking the post it amplifies it, which can encourage more people to want pet cheetahs. The idea behind the hashtag is to just get people to pause for a second and think about what they’re seeing before they decide to like a photo. It’s the one thing people can do themselves to help prevent cheetah trafficking.”
The campaign accompanies a new feature package from Nat Geo that details what is believed to be the largest smuggling route for cheetah traffickers in the world, as well as a companion podcast episode on Overheard at National Geographic discussing the organized smuggling of cheetah cubs out of the Horn of Africa and to the Arabian Peninsula to be sold as pets to the wealthy—an illegal trade that has boomed due to social media.
“There are only about 7,000 adult cheetahs left in the wild, and the illegal wildlife trade is only one of a number of threats,” Bale said. “The species can’t afford to lose new generations of cubs.”
For more on this story, visit natgeo.com.