Rihanna, who is currently on her Diamond World Tour, visited the island of Phuket in Thailand over the weekend, and one Instagram photograph from her vacation has landed two Thai nationals in trouble. The photograph in question shows Rihanna cuddling a slow loris, a squirrel-like animal native to Southeast Asia, which is listed as a protected species.
“Look who was talkin dirty to me! #Thailand #nightlife,” Rihanna captioned the picture, which has so far received 231,000 likes on Instagram.
The photograph immediately caused an outrage among wildlife welfare organizations that have for long pushed for animals, especially protected species, to be kept away from tourists, prompting an investigation.
"Phuket authorities were alerted to the picture (of Rihanna), and last night police arrested the two individuals who brought out the loris as a photo opportunity for tourists," Weera Kerdsirimongkon, a Phuket district chief, told Associated Press on Sunday.
Officials also confiscated two lorises from the pair -- a 20-year-old man and a 16-year-old boy. According to AP, the duo could face a penalty of up to four years in prison and a fine of 40,000 baht, or $1,300, for the possession of protected animals.
Also, multiple reports stated that it is illegal in Thailand for anyone to charge tourists to take photographs with the endangered primates, and the country's authorities have long been trying to nab people exploiting wildlife.
"It's like a cat-and-mouse game. But this time it's bigger because a celebrity like Rihanna posted the picture, and there were more than 200,000 'likes' from around the world," Weera told AP.
According to The Phuket News, several touts were arrested in June of this year for exploiting wildlife. But, a complete crackdown is difficult as it is not easy to track down touts.
“It is very difficult to do the raids because the touts have spies,” Awat Nithikul, the leader of the patrol officers and a senior forest academic at Khao Phra Taew Forest Preserve, told The Phuket News. “If someone hears that the police are coming their way, there will be a person who calls the touts and tells them to move.”
"But this is a big deal because it might affect Thailand's reputation," he added.