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Rihanna with her audience of one: at least the issue is better known

Phuket Wildlife in Rihanna's Jungle

Saturday, October 5, 2013
PHUKET: Loris touts in Phuket's Soi Bangla walking street are tipped off about the presence of police by a man waving a laser beam, Phuketwan has learned.

International alarm at the treatment of the protected primates was triggered when pop singer Rihanna posted a ''selfie'' with a wide-eyed critter last month.

On the ground in Phuket's nightlife hub of Patong, officials have since failed to seriously deter the touts - or to close the lewd ping pong sex show that Rihanna attended and later tweeled about.

The unseemly denigration of women and the abuse of harmless furry animals appear to be two modern-day issues that Thai authorities struggle to confront.

Thanks to the man with the laser beam, warnings quickly spread around Bangla whenever the law comes looking for touts.

Lorises are such small furry balls that they can quickly be tucked away into a shoulder bag.

The sex shows are not so easily tucked away. Though they are openly advertised by scores of touts, the police seem unable to locate even one. Our advice: just follow the tourists up the stairs.

We don't know whether endangered ping pong artistes have a sanctuary to go to when their working life is over, but it's certainly the aim of a group of wildlife activists on Phuket to rescue and preserve the slow lorises.

It was with a sense of wonder late last year that a Phuketwan team and a BBC crew photographed a family of gibbons being returned to the wild in the Phuket jungle.

Wild whoo-whoos filled the air as Cop, a female gibbon rescued from Patong touts, began to explore Khao Phraw Thaew, Phuket's last sizeable rainforest.

Her mate Jorn and their young male offspring, Sherpa, were soon to follow. The family's release back into the wild was the culmination of years of work at Phuket's Gibbon Rehabilitation Project centre.

There are now 30 gibbons living in the wilds of Phuket, and that's quite an achievement.

Once it was gibbons, not lorises, that were taken by touts to earn money from unthinking tourists in the streets of Patong and neighboring Karon.

Gibbons remain at-risk in Thailand but primatologist Petra Osterberg is now hoping to rescue the lorises in a similar fashion.

Sadly, because their teeth are generally removed before they are put to work, the lorises can never be returned to the wild the way that the gibbons have been.

''Our hope is to help the individual animals, and at the same time to raise awareness among tourists to decrease the demand for this trade,'' she told Phuketwan this week.

''Once taken from the wild as babies and mutilated for the trade, the majority of the photo prop lorises are not suitable for release.

''Our project will combine education, research and animal welfare.''

An appeal is now underway to establish a refuge for the lorises on Phuket. It won't be easy.

There's an alternative government-run shelter in Phang Nga, but it's reported to be quite crowded already because of the large numbers of lorises being abused on Phuket.

For now, caring for the lorises taken from the touts seems to be the only alternative.

It's complicated because of their territorial characteristics. They don't congregate in large groups and can treat each other badly.

''Around 90 percent of animals die after release, even within carefully conducted reintroduction programs in Vietnam and Indonesia,'' Ms Osterberg said.

''The majority of lorises used in Patong are non-native to Phuket, or to Petchaburi, where they're still found in the wild.

''Lorises have large wild territories and will fight until death to defend these. There is currently no other species-specific rescue and rehabilitation center for slow lorises in Thailand.

''By releasing a large number of rescued lorises to the wild, as is currently practised by some centres, the animals go to certain death and the act may also pose problems for any native lorises potentially already living within the area.''

As with the gibbons over the past 30 years, awareness of the issue is growing and more people are coming to understand the special needs of the lorises.

''There is a huge need for more education about lorises: their taxononomy, captive care and reintroduction techniques should be made available to various centres and bodies within Thailand,'' Ms Osterberg said.

''Our working group consists of world-leading loris experts and primatologists. Our aim is to achieve the best possible outcome for all animals - those still in the wild, those within the trade and those that have already been rescued.''

What it will take to stop the trade is the rejection by tourists of cuddly, cute photos of the kind that Rihanna posted.

That, combined with much heavier penalties to deter repeat offenders, should stem the cruelty.

As for the ping pong artistes who bring a different kind of shame on Thailand . . . they seem to already be a well-protected species, but on the wrong side of the law.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Then why not use Plain Clothed Policeman?
or has this not occurred to them?

Posted by Tbs on October 5, 2013 22:06


How about posting some bilingual signs at the airport with the facts about these badly abused creatures (I mean the slow loris)? Even make it a criminal offence under local bi-laws to be photographed with them.

The other creatures don't seem to be an endangered species so have no need of protection, though a good social welfare system might stop it at root source.

Just a thought, whilst the animals are drugged & mutilated, don't the girls 'volunteer' for these shows for a very substantial increase in salary. They have a choice; the animals do not. They benefit; the animals do not. They bring shame to real Thais; so should the abuse of animals!

Posted by Logic on October 5, 2013 23:24


Its common knowledge that all the above in the article are controlled by the police, until the media states the truth so the public can act it is all just hot air going nowhere, so come on Ed, I know you no the truth, put it in print, there's a challenge for you! Now I will see if this gets published, I fear not, controlled or scared media?

Posted by coxo on October 6, 2013 09:59

Editor Comment:

''Common knowledge'' often turns out to be gossip, rumor and urban myth, coxo. If you are hereby accusing any officer of corruption, please produce your evidence now, using your real name. We will take you with us, straight to the island's new commander of police.


This whole subject has to be seen as a market and then logic will give that it stops only if there is no interest and thus no buying. Addressing corrupt officials and trying to remove animals, shows, small kids selling flowers etc will not solve the problem only give a short relieve whereafter it starts again ... so address the buying, information will be the key.

Posted by Sailor on October 6, 2013 11:49

Editor Comment:

Do you mean, ''if the tourists want it, it's ok?'' Educating people to behave is time-consuming and less effective than proper law enforcement. In fact, that's what laws are for.


No, I do not write it is ok, what I do write is that as long as there are buyers it won't stop, only be suppressed .... there are death penalties on drugs but that did not make the problem go away did it ? There is no lack of laws in Thailand but to think that they should suddenly be enforced is wishful thinking, that requires a lot more time and will have a lot less effect that information will have on tourist.

Posted by Sailor on October 6, 2013 12:53

Editor Comment:

Well, good luck. You are going to spend every night handing out brochures in Bangla. And you know what? Until there some mass arrests and heavy penalties imposed, nothing will change.


Ed should I have the desire to go to the new police commander it would be with a reputable lawyer, not yourself, you are the editor of a 'news' paper, I'm sure your investigative journalist's could find the facts if wanted or 'desired', its your choice what you consider public knowledge and what you are scared to print, I will read your articles and comment as I see fit, based on conversations with long term Thai friends expressing common knowledge and common sense, you can continue to sweep things under the carpet which is another missed opportunity on your part as a journalist and editor of a news paper in Phuket, your chosen profession, not mine! Scratch the surface and change the face of Phuket if you dare, you are the forum not me.

Posted by coxo on October 6, 2013 13:44

Editor Comment:

We're not ''scared'' of anyone or anything. We've regularly stood up for what we believe is right in the face of serious consequences. But we are not here to impose our standards on Thailand on the basis of hearsay. If corruption in Patong is what troubles you most, do something about it. The first thing required is for you to show some gumption and lead your Thai friends to a Crime Crisis Centre or the Damrungtam complaints office in Phuket City. There you can produce all your evidence. (Hearsay will get you nowhere). Get off your butt, use your real name, and stand up for what you believe in. We'll report what you and your friends have to say, and you will be credited with initiating all the changes that will follow. But don't expect us to fill the void where your own courage should be. And our interest in being told what to do matches your financial support for this site.

Wednesday May 22, 2024
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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