How Rihanna Accidentally Got Two Animal Traffickers Arrested

While vacationing on the resort island of Phuket, Thailand, R&B singer Rihanna stopped to pose for a picture with what she thought was just any other strange local pet. It turns out that the singer actually took a photo of herself with a slow loris, an endangered species whose adorable looks have put it in danger of extinction.

It’s true that the small primate is ridiculously cute — unfortunately, the adorable photos and videos of slow lorises on the internet leave out the dark side of the animals’ story. Pet lorises are usually ripped from their mothers at a young age and held in crowded, cramped cages before being illegally sold in Asian markets. The slow loris is equipped with venomous fangs, and its bite can prove disabling or even fatal to humans. The animals you see in photos like Rihanna’s have almost always had their teeth ripped out or clipped off to keep them from biting tourists and would-be owners — opening the animals up to infections, debilitating pain and often, death. Even when they survive, the nocturnal animals often live their lives stressed, blinded and disoriented when humans try to interact with them in daylight.

While Rihanna’s photo immediately racked up about 200,000 likes, many of Rihanna’s fans also reacted with anger and disbelief when she posted the photo, slamming the artist for glorifying the exotic animal trade. The Thai police were apparently keeping tabs on her travels in Phuket, because the very next day two people in the area were arrested for illegal possession of the protected animals, and are now facing a $1,300 fine and up to four years in prison. Two lorises were confiscated at the scene.

Unfortunately, many times these traffickers don’t end up seeing justice. While every country the slow loris naturally occurs in has laws on the books protecting them, the laws often aren’t enforced. In fact, one study found that law enforcement officials in Cambodia often participate in the trade themselves. Apart from simple corruption, another problem is that there’s often nowhere for the animals to go once they’re rescued. Lorises with clipped teeth can’t be released back into the wild, and there’s only so much space in for them in rescue centers.

Locals say that in Phuket, any arrests of loris sellers are rare. In an interview with the Phuket News, a local official, Veerawit Kruesombat, described the raid as “just window dressing,” accusing the police of accepting bribes to overlook illegal trading and predicting that everything would “blow over” within a month, once the celebrity was gone.

Photo credit: Instagram


Jim Ven
Jim V2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

Kate S.
Kate S4 years ago


Nora McKellar
Nora McKellar4 years ago

seems ignorance does sometimes pay off...its a shame that it takes celebrities and media attention to bring bout change. More should be done to protect these animals!

Donna Ferguson
Donna F4 years ago

at least there were some arrests. but I agree only because the photo was of a celebrity

B J.
BJ J4 years ago

At least something good came out of photo tho sounds like it's just temporary to appease those who are upset about the cruel treatment of lorises.

Alexandra B.
Alexandra B4 years ago

It's interesting that something as innocent as a simple picture taking ended up helping catch and arrest these two men. However, this kind of thing (picture taking with exotic, endangered species) happens on a daily basis & had it been any "ordinary tourist" taking picture with this cute little loris, i'm sure, it had not received any attention at all :(
Sadly, there are way too many people that go unpunished for the crime they commit against innocent beings they so greedily exploit and subject to great suffering.
There is no punishment severe enough for these wildlife criminals!

Lynnl C.
Lynn C4 years ago


J. G.
Janice G4 years ago

People who pose with these animals are just ignorant but thankfully the publicity will help to highlight what is going on so it had a good outcome at least

Annelies Haussler
liessi Haussler4 years ago

Anyone who strives to earn notoriety through their association with captive animals is, by virtue of their actions, complicit in trafficking -- whether that animal be a slow loris or a 7-year-old sex slave. When will people learn how quickly desire devolves into pandering?