A Kardashian trend you may not want to keep up with: taking photos with baby apes.
The practice inadvertently glamorizes the illegal primate trade, according to a UN body.
A spokesman for the UN’s Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) told CNN yesterday that celebrity photos with baby orangutans promote animal trafficking.
The UN specifically called out Khloe Kardashian and Paris Hilton, who have posted Instagrams with baby apes at private zoos in Dubai.
“Every time a famous face is seen cuddling an ape in this way, it undoes years of our work,” GRASP coordinator Douglas Cress told CNN. “It lowers the value of the animal, and the public sense of conservation drops.”
Cress said the photos send a message that posing with illegally trafficked primates is okay as long as it’s cute. “But it’s not,” he said. “It’s illegal, and it contributes to the destruction of already endangered species.”
Many apes in private zoos and residences were likely obtained illegally, sidestepping the process to get official permits. Most of the international primate trade is illegal, according to the nonprofit Orangutan Republik. The legal primate trade is highly regulated, with complete bans on any trade of certain species like wild chimpanzees.
Smugglers prefer to traffic in baby apes because full-grown ones are harder to move, according to The Guardian. For every baby chimpanzee taken, an average of 10 will be killed trying to defend it.
Despite this, according to Cress, private zoo owners can easily obtain primates because “law enforcement is relatively weak against a wealthy elite that appear untouchable.” The primates are usually kept in privately owned zoos or in what Cress calls the “private menageries” of wealthy families.
According to GRASP’s 2013 report “Stolen Apes,” as many as 22,218 wild great apes were lost between 2005 and 2011 in the illegal trade. What’s more, says the report, the illegal trade has shifted from being a by-product of practices like deforestation into a standalone business of its own.
But it’s very difficult to prosecute: From 2005 to 2011, only 27 arrests were ever made in connection with great ape trade.
Besides private zoos in the Middle East, the other major destination for ape trafficking is China, where they are trained to perform in circus shows.
So Khloe, Paris, and co., just stop. Your thirsty posts could be perpetuating animal exploitation. And that’s not very likable.
Correction: A previous version of this article referred to orangutans and chimpanzees as “monkeys”; they are actually apes.