From Harambe to Vivien Leigh the sloth, does anthropomorphizing help or hurt animals?

Some researchers have argued that projecting human attributes to animals can help with education and relief efforts

When the National Aviary announced its newest acquisition, a baby sloth named Vivien Leigh, the internet glommed on, prompted by articles titled “Please look at this new baby sloth named Vivien” and “Vivien Leigh, a Baby Sloth From Pittsburgh, Is Very Relatable to Me Personally.” Vivien will be an educational ambassador for the zoo, a hook to teach visitors about the disappearance of her native rainforest. During a recent visit to the Aviary, I looked fondly at the sleeping Vivien and referred to her more than once as “my daughter.”…

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