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'You've just killed my mum': Tourists warned over holiday photos that endanger animals

It can be an unusual and remarkable souvenir of a fabulous holiday in the sun – a photo that shows you cosying up to a rare and exotic animal. And posted onto social media sites for the amusement of friends and family, these snapshots can seem even more alluring.
But tourists heading to far-flung places in the Far East, Africa and Central America are being warned that their seemingly harmless meetings with supposedly cuddly beasts can come at a considerable cost to the creature’s well-being.

A new campaign – being launched this week by wildlife protection group Care For The Wild – is seeking to highlight the dark side of these ‘magical’ moments with animals who are not as tame, nor as well looked after, as it may initially seem.

Called ‘No Photos, Please’, the campaign is part of Care For The Wild’s project, which aims to deter tourists from indulging in two-second wildlife encounters that can have rather longer-lasting consequences for their unwitting subjects.

This issue came into focus in September when pop icon Rihanna was pictured with a slow loris while taking a break from touring in Thailand’s famous beach destination Phuket.

The singer posted a picture of herself on Instagram, holding one of these small mammals as she gazed into the camera.

Known for its ‘loveable’ characteristics – including soft fur, rounded head and wide eyes – the slow loris is found across Asia, in countries ranging from India and Bangladesh in the west to the islands of the Philippines in the east.

But despite its appearance, it is not comfortable in human hands, and also – unusually for a mammal – has a poisonous bite.

This latter fact means that, in cases where a slow loris is offered to tourists for photo opportunities – usually for a fee – its teeth will normally have been removed.

Care For The Wild says that these creatures have often been taken away from their mothers – who are frequently killed in the process.

The slow loris is a nocturnal animal, which largely operates under the cover of darkness.

Bright lights – either from neon-lit tourist streets or camera flashes – can damage its eyes and cause pain and discomfort.

Care For The Wild is drawing attention to the problem with a series of dramatic posters which will ask holidaymakers to think before they take that quick ‘selfie’.

Hard-hitting slogans will include ‘Smile! You’ve just killed my mum’ and ‘3-2-1 Say Ouch!’

Another poster will advise: ‘Photo for Facebook? You’ve just liked animal abuse.’

'It is easy to get caught up in the moment when on holiday, and having your photo taken with a cute wild animal may seem like a good idea at the time,' says Care For The Wild CEO Philip Mansbridge.

'But if people know the true story behind these animals, we think they will learn to say no.

'If you see a wild animal that isn’t in the wild, then it is time to ask questions.

'If it is a young animal, where is its mother? Where are its teeth and claws? Why is it so tame?

'The answers are probably “dead”, “ripped out”, and “because it is terrified”.

'That is not the setting for a fun Facebook photo.'

'The campaign is hard-hitting because we need people to take notice.' he continues.

'We are not blaming anyone for having done this in the past, but hopefully we can get the message out. Please do not pay for a photo with a wild animal. The best thing you can do is keep your money in your pocket. If the trade stops, hawkers will leave the animals in the wild, where they belong.'

Rihanna’s picture with a slow loris – which is a protected species – sparked a response in Thailand, where police descended on Bangla Road in Phuket and arrested two men.

But Care For The Wild says that most such incidents go unquestioned – and warns tourists that photos with ‘tame’ monkeys in Marrakech (Morocco) or lion cubs in Cancun (Mexico) are similarly debilitating for the animals involved.

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