Tinder users looking for love may instead find themselves staring into the soulful eyes of Reggie, a colorful monkey that needs their help.
“Reggie” (probably not his real name) is an endangered red-shanked douc (Pygathrix nemaeus). These golden-faced beauties, native to Vietnam, have experienced a dramatic population decline over the past few decades due to rampant poaching for their skins and body parts, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine. Today as few as 300 remain in the wild and the Douc Langur Foundation predicts the species could be extinct in as little as ten years.
Can a dating app help to turn that around? That’s certainly the hope of the retail cosmetics chain The Body Shop, which created Reggie’s fake Tinder profile and is currently inserting it as an advertisement into users’ searches in Canada and other countries.
Women who encounter Reggie and swipe right won’t get the chance for a date, though. Instead they will find a message about The Body Shop’s Bio-Bridges program—which aims to preserve 75 million square meters of forest habitat by the year 2020—as well as a 50 percent off coupon. For every purchase, the retailer will donate £1 to the World Land Trust to help preserve 14.5 million square meters of Reggie’s habitat in the Khe Nuoc Trong rainforest.
“This is a relatively new space for advertisers but one that is very exciting since there is a very captive young audience,” says Jennifer Spencer, VP of marketing and corporate responsibility for The Body Shop Canada. “So far it’s been very successful. We’ve received a great deal of press on the program and it’s a way for us to reach new customers who haven’t shopped with us or haven’t thought of the Body Shop in a while.”
Although this is a fairly unusual way to call attention to an endangered species, the truth is that Reggie and his kin need the promotional boost. Earlier this month a group of Vietnamese scientists proposed classifying the red-shanked douc as critically endangered. They added that the main threat to the species is no longer poaching, although that’s still a problem. What’s new, however, is tourism, which now creates disruptive noise and pollution that scientists worry may alter the monkeys’ habits. Development, meanwhile, has put new pressures on the douc’s habitat and forced the species into ever-shrinking regions.
The Body Shop’s Reggie promotion runs for the next few months, with Tinder users in each country getting their own window of time when they can swipe left for Reggie. Meanwhile, the Douc Langur Foundation is hard at work with on-the-ground efforts such as snare removal and rehabilitation of rescued monkeys. That’s definitely an effort that everyone, Tinder user or not, can swipe right to support.
Previously in Extinction Countdown: