Rihanna's Instagram pic with slow loris prompts police raid
Thailand police move in on wildlife touts after R&B singer tweets photo of herself with protected species to 32m fans
- Kate Hodal in Bangkok
- theguardian.com, Monday 23 September 2013 11.24 BST
Rihanna at the Singapore Grand Prix: the R&B star embarrassed officials by tweeting from a sex show, which are against the law in Thailand. Photograph: Joseph Nair/AP
Thai police have arrested two people on suspicion of attempting to sell endangered wildlife after pop star Rihanna tweeted a photograph of herself clutching a protected primate on the resort island of Phuket.
The 25-year-old singer, on a brief break from her Diamonds World tour, shared the Instagram self-portrait with her nearly 32 million fans and tweeted: "Look who was talking dirty to me!"
The photograph shows a sunglass-sporting Rihanna holding up a slow loris, a furry primate with large eyes and a long tail, which is native to south-east Asia and a protected species in Thailand. Along with elephants and orang-utans, however, the loris is often peddled by touts as a photo opportunity for tourists.
Authorities say they have long struggled to crack down on wildlife touts in the area, who they claim use spies to alert one another of police raids and avoid arrest.
But the Thai government moved in quickly after Rihanna's picture – which has been retweeted tens of thousands of times and has more than 231,000 Instagram "likes" – by ordering the ministry of natural resources and Phuket governor to set up a sting on Sunday night in the Bangla Road area of Patong beach.
A 20-year-old man and 16-year-old were arrested during the raid and two lorises confiscated from their possession, local media reported. If charged, the pair could face up to four years in jail and a fine of 40,000 baht (£800).
"It's like a cat-and-mouse game," the Phuket district chief, Weera Kerdsirimongkon, told Associated Press. "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."
Rihanna's photo with the loris – which has attracted criticism from wildlife activists – was not the only picture to court controversy, however.
After posing with the animal, the R&B star took a photo with a herd of elephants and later tweeted live from a sex show. Officials said such shows were against the law in Thailand.
"The authorities and law officials have surveyed the area to arrest and fine those involved," local district chief Veera Kerdsirimongkol told the Bangkok Post. "But the shows still happen."
After a weekend spent Instagramming photos of herself on a boat in a bikini, and then performing live in Singapore at the Formula One Grand Prix tournament, Rihanna headed to Australia and New Zealand to continue her tour. Although media were still discussing her influence on the Phuket wildlife raid, it does not appear that her comments on the sex shows have led to any police action in the red-light district.
Rihanna's Instagram pic with slow loris prompts police raid | Environment | theguardian.com