International Animal Rescue Chief Executive Officer Alan Knight, OBE, spoke to The Phuket News this evening about the issues surrounding Rihanna being photographed holding an endangered slow loris on Bangla Road on Friday night (September 20), while on a visit to Phuket.
The Instagram photo and news surrounding it has gone global, with many people outraged at the popstar's apparent ignorance of the issue of slow lorises and other endangered animals on the streets of Thailand and wider Asia.
Phuket officials leapt into action once news broke, and on Saturday night arrested a 20-year-old and a 16-year-old tout. Police in the past have attempted crackdowns but say the touts are hard to find.
Earlier today, Patong Municipality councillor and president of the Patong Entertainment Business Association Veerawit Kruesombat said crackdowns on Patong’s loris touts and sex shows (which Rihanna also tweeted about) are a “flash in the pan” and will fizzle out within a month.
Mr Knight said he first saw the news of the photo of Rihanna with the loris via Facebook.
"I feel very frustrated when I see people handling wildlife, we should leave animals in the wild.
"I am upset that Rihanna doesn't know better. I would love to take her around our [slow loris rescue] centre in Indonesia and show her the pain these poor creatures are forced to endure for a few people's so called pleasure," he told The Phuket News.
"I really hope that the police in Phuket will enforce the laws of the land and prevent all wildlife trade in the future.
"There is a lot of information about the trade in lorises, we just need to get the information out there.
"To be photographed, this loris would need to have been captured from the wild. Lorises are the only venomous primate. The hunters that take these lorises from the wild cut their teeth using toenail clippers. I have taken a series of photos of this happening (in Indonesia)... so I am against having lorises as pets as the majority are forced to experience pain due to having their teeth cut out."
International Animal Rescue runs the largest slow loris rescue centre in the world, based in Indonesia.
"We study the biology of the wild loris and provide a habitat for them in captivity that is as close to the wild habitat they are used to. This will allow them to be released," Mr Knight said.