BANGKOK (AFP) ― Thai authorities on Monday said two men had been arrested on suspicion of possessing a protected primate after pop star Rihanna posted a picture of herself online holding the creature.
The singer posed with the tiny, large-eyed slow loris on a night out in the tourist resort of Phuket on Friday, posting a picture on Twitter and Instagram, without apparently realizing that the use of the animal as a prop for tourist snaps is illegal.
The image ― captioned “Look who was talkin dirty to me!” ― generated outrage from animal lovers concerned about rampant exploitation of animals in Thai tourist areas and prompted a quick response from authorities.
Local district chief Veera Kerdsirimongkol said two men were arrested on Saturday on suspicion of possessing a loris.
“I have asked police to check the area in Patong beach after Rihanna posted her picture on Friday night with a slow loris,” he told AFP.
Wildlife trade protection group Traffic said the image of Rihanna with the loris “takes global conservation efforts several steps back.”
“The public often takes a cue from people they look up to, and when celebrities act in this manner, there is a real danger that the mass thinks it’s ok for everyone else to be doing this. It’s not ok,” said Senior Program Officer Kanitha Krishnasamy.
Rihanna, who was holidaying in Thailand as she traveled through the region as part of her “Diamonds” world tour, also posed with several elephants in further pictures and commented on visiting one of the area’s notorious sex shows.
The “Umbrella” singer’s picture with the loris received more than 231,000 likes on Instagram, while also sparking a discussion among commenters about the protected animal.