Critically endangered “exotic” animals are routinely abused in gimmicky tourist traps in countries like Thailand.
Critically endangered animals are routinely abused in gimmicky tourist traps across much of Southeast Asia with numerous hapless creatures employed as props for photographs. “Cute” baby animals are especially common in such exploitative exploits.
Yet at times there is a backlash against the practice. And so it happened that expatriates and local residents on the Thai resort island of Samui launched an outraged social media campaign after two men were filmed using a baby gibbon as a photo prop for foreign holidaymakers on Chaweng Beach, a popular tourist hangout.
In the 30-second clip, a local man is shown offering the young animal to tourists so they can pose for pictures with the defenseless primate. Uploaded to YouTube, the video, taken by Arkadiy Kulev, promptly went viral.
“Sadly, these captured gibbons have a very short ‘working life’. When they get to age six or seven, they develop canine teeth and often become more aggressive. Once they are no longer cute and compliant, many are killed,” Kulev noted in a social media post.
“Also gibbons do not breed in captivity. Which means that this baby gibbon was poached from the wild or bought on the black market,” Kulev added. “This is the same beach where a slow loris was found with teeth ripped out so tourists could take selfies in 2016.”
During improvised photo sessions with exotic creatures, tourists are encouraged to cuddle animals, put them on their shoulders or wrap them around their necks. This can go on for many hours a day, which can cause great stress to these animals. Nor is it entirely safe for tourists who may get bitten or clawed in the process. They may also be at risk of contracting diseases from the animals.
Local police routinely turn a blind eye to the practice. This time, however, they did take action, arresting the two men and confiscating three young gibbons in their possession.
Yet a day or so later another two men were seen on the same beach peddling an exotic animal as a photo prop for beachgoers. It was an iguana.