This weekend the mega-pop star took a break from her Diamonds tour to explore Indonesia and Thailand, meeting all kinds of animals and local people along the way. After playing with a group of elephants, Rihanna stopped to cuddle a cute furry primate, and her Instagram picture sent the Thai police into a frenzy. What did she do? Turns out the fuzzy animal, known as a slow loris, is a protected species that nobody – not even Rihanna – should be handling. People known as “touts” work in tourist centers in Thailand looking for people who want pictures with the big-eyed, squirrel-like Loris, and sometimes even find buyers for the endangered animals.
What’s pretty clear is the fact that from the second Rihanna and her crew landed in Phuket, the local authorities and fans were keeping an eye on her social media accounts. After the singer left incriminating pictures on her Instagram and Twitter accounts from the Thai island on Friday, the local authorities turned up in the same spot the very next day hoping to make arrests. Generally the local police have a tough time catching touts, but this time they rounded up two perpetrators: a pair of young men aged 16 and 20. The cops also confiscated the 2 slow lorises, which were reportedly taken to the Phang Nga national park following the arrests (Daily Mail).
The police involved in the Bangla Road raid explained that their orders to move in on the touts came directly from Phuket Governor Maitree Intusut after local wildlife conservation officials noticed the Instagram pictures and became concerned for the welfare of the slow lorises. Although it seems to have been widely known that touts operated in the area, police said that they are known to work in teams and alert each other when authorities are on the way. In the case of the pair of slow lorises that Rihanna met, the local Wildlife Suppression Patrol Officers enacted the raid with the help of the Thailand police and stated that there would be many more local raids to follow (Phuket News).
The District Chief, Weera Kerdsirimongkon, said that Thai authorities have been trying to stop the exploitation of the slow loris for many years in tourist areas, but the touts continue to persist. Local residents, however, wonder if the police are really trying at all: Online Daily Mail reader “Jay” commented on the story with his own sentiments, echoed by many other readers: “This is a joke. The police walk right past these touts every night and do nothing. Now, to save face they do something. Embarrassing” (Phuket News). Fellow commenter Dave Williams agreed, saying “the police obviously don’t care until someone makes noise.”
Both of the touts have been charged with the possession of a protected species, and following a trial could be sentenced to up to 4 years in prison as well as charged with a fine equivalent to $1300 USD (NY Post). So far, despite the international backlash, Rihanna seems to still be enjoying her vacation.
Written By: Mandy Gardner