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Open Letter to Rihanna:  No Furry Phuket Secret

Open Letter to Rihanna: No Furry Phuket Secret

Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Dear Rihanna,

You recently posted some pictures on Instagram from your visit to Thailand last week. One in particular caught my attention, a picture of you with a cute and adorable baby loris on your shoulder. I want to make you aware that the use of wild animals as photo props is an illegal activity in Thailand. It is contributing to the decline of several already endangered species and is responsible for many acts of animal cruelty.

Every year millions of tourists come to Phuket and Patong, many of whom will be given the opportunity to have their photo taken with wildlife, such as the slow loris you encountered on Bangla Road. The invitation to handle one of these exotic animals is very appealing. Their large eyes and fluffy appearance make them irresistible to many people. Sadly, few visitors realise the true cost of their souvenir photograph.

My name is Helen Thompson, I'm a British Zoologist currently working at an animal rescue centre on Phuket that cares for more than fifty primates. Most of these animals were rescued from use in the tourist trade and many suffer from physical and psychological disorders as a result of their prior treatment; photo prop animals are often physically abused, mutilated and drugged to ensure they are safe for tourists to handle.

Much of the work we do involves educating tourists about photo prop animals and the cruelty they commonly endure. For example, few people are aware that the slow loris is venomous, a single bite from which can cause serious infection and even death. Because of this, it is common practice within the photograph and pet trade to cut or pull their canine teeth to prevent them from biting. This is usually done with simple tools such nail clippers or wire cutters and without any form of anaesthetic. Many lorises die as a result of this practice, either due to blood loss or prolonged infection in their teeth and gums.

The name slow loris comes from their iconic behaviour of moving very slowly. Many people find this behaviour endearing but don't release it is actually a response to fear and an indication that the animal is stressed. Most animals used within the photo trade are very young because they are typically docile and more easy to handle. Although they are nocturnal, many are used during the day and will be drugged or physically shaken every few minutes to prevent them from going to sleep. Being continually passed from person to person, along with the ongoing exposure to loud noises and bright flashing lights, is extremely stressful for them and contributes to the death of many of the animals. Most will only survive a few short months.

Sadly law enforcement efforts have had little impact on the photo prop trade here on Phuket because there is a substantial amount of corruption and organised crime in the area. With so many tourists coming to Phuket every year, the trade is certain to continue for as long as visitors are happy to pay for photos with animals.

The act of having a photograph taken with a loris may seem like harmless fun, but in fact it supports an exceptionally cruel trade that results in the needless suffering and death of thousands of these beautiful animals every year. Please help us raise awareness about this problem by speaking out against it and asking your fans not to have their photo taken with exotic animals when abroad. A simple message from you via facebook or twitter will reach millions of people who would otherwise be unaware of the nature and severity of this issue.

Thank you for your time.

Kind regards

Helen Thompson
Gibbon Rehabilitation Project


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Of course what Helen says is true.

So has this letter actually been sent to her or is Helen hoping that she will read this web page?

Posted by Tbs on September 24, 2013 08:21

Editor Comment:

Pass it on to Riri please, tbs.


You could always post it to her Publicist, her facebook page. You are the Media - you are making this a media frenzy (for the better) so I think its time to use media and contact these people. You could start with Facebook and Twitter and go from there.

Posted by Tbs on September 24, 2013 09:33

Editor Comment:

You misunderstand the role of the media, Tbs.We observe, report, and analyse. We are not the modern day equivalent of a postal service. All the things you suggest we should do are things you should do, if you feel strongly about the issue.


A valiant effort by Helen and one that puts the ball in the court of Rihanna.

Remains to be seen if she gives a damn or not.

In the meanwhile I'd be talking to her staff and asking why nobody briefed her on the do's and don'ts in Phuket.

Posted by ThaiMike on September 24, 2013 10:44


I would have thought Rihanna's media exposure could be used to the advantage of those organisations trying to prevent animal exploitation, there is or was the potential for some world wide exposure, maybe just another missed opportunity or personal point scoring?

Posted by coxo on September 24, 2013 11:03


Why should rihanna the illuminati princess care?

Posted by pshy on September 24, 2013 11:16


Rihanna might or might not genuinely care but she has the public following to make a real impact. A professionally written letter by Helen that repeats better what some of us have tried with our limited knowledge or resources to say for a long time.

Posted by Logic on September 24, 2013 12:28


Rihanna is just 1 over hundreds each year take pictures with this poor animal. Thailand should take this opportunity for handing over heavy fines to perpetrators, not for lambasting her. But nothing will change because, when caught, the perpetrator's cry is likely to soften police hearth which will set him free according to 'we need to protect Thais from foreigners' (see Chief of marine division claims in Phuket)

Posted by Alex on September 24, 2013 13:08


@alex - you are bang on. There is no problem here - if the police and authorities did there jobs this wouldnt be an issue because every tout on Bangla road would be arrested and the animals confiscated from them. But no - instead they pre warn them they are going to do inspection and raids - no point blaming Rihanna. Thai authorities do your job and this wont be an issue - continue on the track you are and expect more bad publicity - the ball is in your court.

Posted by Ciaran on September 24, 2013 13:41


I hope Rihanna will have the patience to read the letter up to the end!

Posted by william on September 24, 2013 18:43


One sad reflection is that once rescued, these poor animals cannot be returned to the wild if their teeth have been pulled (as reported). They will need a permanent sanctuary & some TLC for the remainder of their days.

Posted by Logic on September 24, 2013 20:19


This is a really nice letter and I hope Rihanna will respond.
However, I guess somebody explained her allready where fur come from...So,I didn t expect so much from somebody that love fur.

Posted by Fabien on September 24, 2013 22:14



And you don't think Rihanna already have received an "earful" of criticism over this over the last week? Like she needs to be informed by you again?

Posted by christian on September 24, 2013 22:34


This letter has been sent to Rihanna through every medium I've been able to find; via her website, via her record labels website and via their relevant pages on facebook and twitter. Maybe she'll respond to it and maybe she won't, but if it helps to raise some awareness about this problem along the way then it will at least have done something. If you support this cause please consider sharing it, or even better tweet it to Riri.

Posted by Helen on September 25, 2013 01:45


Phuketwan may "observe, report, and analyse" but may also inquire of Rihanna or her publicists if they have any comment on Helen Thompson's open letter. If she, or her people have no comment, so be it, but let us know. I think that is within your mandate to report the news, or as you put it "the role of the media".

Posted by Greg on September 25, 2013 02:07

Editor Comment:

Rihanna's holiday is a good example of how 21st-century celebrities have developed their own methods of dealing with the media in their own way, Greg. As Helen has said, she has tried every method she knows to get her open letter to Rihanna. Phuketwan, the BBC, the New York Times doesn't have any special access. Social media has changed the way celebrities relate to their fans.


@Alex @Ciaran
My intention is not to criticize Rihanna, although she may be ignorant about wildlife issues she's certainly not alone. I am happy to call out others who simply hurl abuse at her as doing more harm than good. Being angry about it won't solve any problems.

You're right about the police, it would be nice if they did their job. Sadly the problem of corruption within the police is much more widespread than just turning a blind eye to these mistreated animals. However, I believe we can tackle this particular problem from the other side. If we can use this opportunity to educate and get tourists to say no to photos with wild animals then this trade will die.

Posted by Helen on September 25, 2013 02:13


Thank you, Helen Thompson for the work you do.

Posted by Susanne Tuohioja on September 28, 2013 14:44


Who the heck is Riri?

(Sorry, I'm an old geezer.)

Posted by Buster on September 28, 2013 18:55

Editor Comment:

Bad Girl RiRi is Rihanna's social network user name.


A page now exists for this campaign, please support us and get Rihanna to take responsibility for her actions

Posted by Helen on October 15, 2013 18:11


@Helen, if you are so interested in protecting the lorises, why don't you go down in Bangla and inform tourist about it and disturb the people selling services instead ? The Facebook initiative won't change a thing.

Posted by Sailor on October 15, 2013 19:46

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