Currently the biggest box office hit of 2016 with over $850 million, Zootropolis (or Zootopia outside of Europe) is having an unusual impact in China.
With the movie making over $230 million in that country alone - the biggest box office receipts outside of America, and the biggest animated movie in China ever - the hugely popular movie has resulted in a massive surge of Chinese families buying the rare fennec fox as a pet.
In the movie, a fennec fox named Finnick plays a smart-alec con-artists, but his introduction is as a big-eared baby fox in an elephant costume, so audience members initially fell in love with him.
Despite being prohibited from public sale, the fennec fox has found a surge in public popularity, being sold for a little under 20,000¥ (€2,600).
Talking to the LA Times, an employee of a wild animal import-export company in Liaoning province stated “We normally sell them to zoos, but have received quite a few phone calls after the screening of Zootopia. One family from Jiangsu province bought a fennec fox from us not long ago. Then I received three other parents’ calls, demanding the foxes.”
Zhang Jinshuo, an associate professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Zoology, also told the Times that "If trading fennec foxes becomes widely practised in China, the illegal trade of fennec foxes from their native region will certainly increase. That will reduce the number of wild fennec foxes and ultimately could lead to the extinction of the species.”