It may seem like harmless fun to get a picture taken with an exotic animal on holiday, but tourists are being urged to walk away.
Care for the Wild International has launched a new campaign to persuade tourists to resist the temptation of having a photo taken with a 'cute' animal like a slow loris or tiger cub.
The charity said getting a photo taken with a wild animal amounted to "rewarding animal abuse" and could cost the lives of 50 animals for every one used in the picture.
The No Photos, Please! campaign features posters with hardhitting slogans like: "Smile! You've just killed my mum", "Photo for Facebook? You've just 'liked' animal abuse", and "Say 1-2-3 Ouch! Flash photography damages nocturnal animals' eyes".
The campaign highlights that animals used for these photos are generally likely to:
· Have been taken from their family at a young age, and their mother inevitably killed
· Be the one survivor out of up to 50 animals killed in the process
· Have had their teeth and claws ripped out, painfully, to prevent them fighting back
· Be kept in dreadful conditions – they are working animals, not pets
· Be dumped/killed when they are no longer cute enough for photos
Care for the Wild CEO Philip Mansbridge said: "It's very easy to get caught up in the moment when you're on holiday, so having your photo taken with a cute wild animal may seem like a good idea at the time. But if people knew the true story behind these animals then we think they'll learn to say no.
"If you see a wild animal that isn't in the wild, then it's time to ask questions. If it's a young animal, where's its mum? Where are its teeth and claws? Why is it so tame? The answers are probably dead, ripped out, and because it's terrified. To me, that's not the setting for a fun Facebook photo."
He added: "Please don't 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, then they'll leave the animals in the wild, where they belong."
Key messages for tourists are:
1) Don't be fooled by the 'bond' between owner and animal – the loris is purely an income driving tool, not a pet, and the industry is run by organised criminal gangs, not individuals.
2) Don't be fooled into thinking that the loris is relaxed and happy – they have a defence mechanism that makes them freeze or extremely docile when under stress.
3) Don't be fooled into thinking that one quick photo won't hurt – it will. Each and every photo taken is keeping the industry alive.
4) Don't be tempted to try and 'rescue' the animal by buying it from the trader. You'll have a hard time finding a home for it, and it'll simply lead to another animal being taken from the wild to fill the space. Keep your hands in your pocket and walk away.