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Petra Osterberg is a volunteer with the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project in Thalang and the Phuket Loris Rescue Co-ordinator for the Bangkok based Love Wildlife Foundation.
On the 20th of September she spoke to the Phuket News about the aftermath of R&B singer Rihanna posting a photograph of herself with a Slow Loris in Instagram on the Bangla Road in Phuket.
Petra revealed that tourist are now buying these animals for figures up to forty thousand baht in attempt to save them. She said that some tourist on a drunken night out had purchased the animals that normally sell for around ten thousand baht from touts that would try to get as much money for them as possible.
She went on to say that there were currently seven lorises at the Gibbon centre and up to sixty being kept at the Departments of National Parks at the Phang Nga Reserve. These animals cannot be returned to the wild and would need long term captive care as their teeth had been clipped to stop them biting tourists. She also said that there has been an explosion of lorises in Phuket since 2011 with many sightings in Kata and Karon.
Miss Osterberg posted photos of the Phuket News story with Rihanna on both rescue organizations facebook pages and was surprised at the reaction and thinks that the anger it provoked would not have been the same if the photos were not taken with a celebrity. She is now convinced that Rihanna’s photo should be used to educate more people and that there is now an opportunity to draw attention to this illegal trade that does not come around very often. She feels that Rihanna is not to blame any more than the millions of other tourists that have been photographed with illegal wildlife and understands that there is no simple solution, but knows it is vital to educate tourists as soon as they arrive in Thailand before they go into ‘holiday mode’. She concluded by saying that because lorises are very small they can be easily hidden by touts when approached by rescue volunteers who often find themselves being threatened by touts when they try to get photos of the lorises for educational purposes.