Social Media is a tragedy for Asia’s Slow Lorises

Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

This is a post which I shared on a travel blog forum way back when I was out travelling in Thailand in 2013. Well, I checked back on the post today and it’s had almost 5,000 views, so obviously, people are interested (which is great)! As a result I thought I would re-blog that post here, for my Hungry City Hippy followers to read – the more people who can read, and share this, the better.

“On a recent 4-week trip to Thailand, I made the unwise decision to visit the party capital of Patong on the (otherwise delightful) island of Phuket. I say unwise decision because as a 27 year old female, there isn’t a lot that Patong can offer me; it’s mainly a haven for lady boy dance clubs, ping pong shows, prostitution and GoGo bars. It is not the picture postcard Thailand that I went in search of, but I am still glad that I stopped by. This is because I discovered something that upset me a great deal, and I’m now determined to do something about it, even if that’s just spreading the word amongst fellow travellers.

 I’m talking about a tourism trend that seems to be on the rise in Patong; the use of primates for photo opportunities. Whereas once upon a time it used to be gangly Gibbons who were dressed up and paraded on the bar strips in the hope that tourists would excitedly pay for a new facebook profile picture, this sad practice has now been passed on to the beautiful Slow Loris. In just one walk down the Bangla Road, I spotted seven of the terrified looking creatures in the space of 5 minutes.

A Slow Loris in his natural habitat

A Slow Loris doing his thing

 For the Slow Lorises used in this business, their slow and painful death is almost guaranteed from the moment they are captured from their native forests. Slow Lorises are nocturnal primates, and like all primates they are born relatively helpless. The young have a whole array of skills to learn from their mothers before they can survive independently in the wild. These photo prop Lorises are almost always very young, orphaned animals that have been tamed by people and fed inappropriate and unnatural diets. Worse still, the ones that prove unpredictable almost always have their teeth cut down with blunt tools without anaesthesia or veterinary care, in order to prevent any bite injuries to humans. As a result, many of the Lorises rescued from the pet trade in Thailand and across South East Asia suffer mouth abscesses and sometimes fatal infections as a result. Because of all these reasons and many more, the Slow Lorises confiscated from Patong and elsewhere in Thailand are almost never suitable for reintroduction back to the wild. They will never be able to go home, even if they are rescued from certain death.

 For this reason, thankfully the same team behind Phuket’s hugely successful Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre are now planning a similar facility for the rescued Slow Lorises, as a joint venture between the Love Wildlife Foundation and local authorities. As Petra Osterberg, a long-standing volunteer at the Gibbon Sanctuary explained to me, there is a growing community of people across the world who are also keen to help, and Petra can be contacted at pet@gibbonproject.org by anyone else who may be keen to be involved in some way, or might like to learn more.

 If however, you are simply planning a trip to Thailand in the near future, and happen to spot one of these quiet, intelligent animals being used for tourist photo stunts, I want to urge to do one thing: just walk straight past. If we can stop making the whole business financially worthwhile, then the remaining Slow Lorises left in the forests in SE Asia just might stand a chance of staying there – escaping a life of cruelty just for the sake of a picture.”

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