This article originally appeared on Dr. Mahaney’s Pet-Lebrity News column on Pet360.com as: Rihanna's Instagram Selfie with Slow Loris Leads to Poacher Arrests.
If you follow celebrity journalism (and how can you not these days), then you’re likely familiar with music superstar Rihanna’s tendency to use social media for spreading news about her music, personal life, and intriguing fashion choices.
Rihanna seems especially fond of photography-based sites, like Instagram (see BadGirlRiRi), to post provocative “selfies.”
Well, Rihanna’s use of Instagram has done some good in leading to the arrest of persons implicated in breaking Thai law by peddling legally protected wildlife.
During a break from her Diamonds World Tour in Thailand, Rihanna seized the opportunity to experience the diverse culture on a first-hand basis and posted a photo of herself posing with a slow loris with the caption, “Look who was talkin dirty to me!” #Thailand #nightlife.
Ultimately, this led to the local police involvement in a crackdown on those who illegally harbor wildlife.
Police confiscated two lorises from a man,20, and a boy, 16, who are both facing charges of possession of protected animals, which carries a penalty up to four years in prison and a 40,000 baht fine ($1,300).
"It's like a cat-and-mouse game. But this time it's bigger because a celebrity like Rihanna posted the picture, and there were more than 200,000 'likes' from around the world," Phuket district chief, Weera Kerdsirimongkon, told the Associated Press.
What's a Slow Loris?
According to Primate Info Net, the slow loris is a primate with “a whitish strip between the eyes, starting on the forehead and continuing until the end of the nose. The head is round and the ears are hidden in thick fur which characterizes slow lorises as a whole. The tail is reduced to a stump and is also hidden in the fur. The eyes are large. The second digit is short, and the hand performs as a powerful clamp for grasping.”
Fun Facts About the Slow Loris
Life span: 25 years (captive)
Total population: Unknown
Gestation: approx. 6 months
Height: N. coucang 10.6 to 15.0 in, N. pygmaeus 7.5 to 8.7 in
Weight: 9.3 to 56.6 oz
A primate is defined as “An order of mammals that are characterized especially by advanced development of binocular vision, specialization of the appendages for grasping, and enlargement of the cerebral hemispheres and that include humans, apes, monkeys, and related forms (as lemurs and tarsiers),” according to Merriam-Webster. So, that includes Rihanna, you, me and the slow loris.
The Reality of the Issue
Deforestation and wildlife trade are both serious threats for the slow loris species. The slow loris has lost a significant amount of their habitat due to habitat fragmentation. In addition to the loss of their habitat, their decline is also associated with unsustainable trade, either as exotic pets or for traditional medicine.
The slow loris species has been protected from commercial international trade under Appendix 1 of CITES since 2007. However, slow lories are still threatened due to issues with law enforcement.
Thailand's Tourism Industry
Having spent time twice in Thailand, I am aware of the seemingly desperate need for its natives to make ends meet. The tourism industry is a main means by which most people earn their income, therefore the lengths to which some Thai people go to capture the attention of a vacationer are not surprising. Yet, a person’s intentional exploitation of a wild animal as a means of making money is not something that I can personally advocate.
So, although Rihanna’s intentions in having her photo taken with the slow loris were seemingly attention-seeking on a worldwide scope. I have to applaud the outcome in helping to lead to the arrest of those involved in harboring a protected and endangered species.
Image: Rihanna's Instagram page
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