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How Paris Hilton's Instagram Post Endangers the Survival of Orangutans and Chimpanzees
The United Nations's Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) is speaking out against the increasingly popular and upsetting pastime of celebrity animal selfies as it glamorizes illegal wildlife trafficking and damages conservation efforts.
According to GRASP research, as reported by The Guardian, an increasing number of orangutans, chimpanzees, gorillas and bonobos are being stolen from the wild and wind up in private gardens, zoos and restaurants in Gulf countries.
With the rise of selfie culture, many celebrities have posted images of themselves on social media with endangered animals that they might not realize were illegally obtained, GRASP coordinator Douglas Cress warned.
“These pictures are seen by hundreds of millions of fans, and it sends the message that posing with great apes—all of which are obtained through illegal means, and face miserable lives once they grow too big and strong to hold—is okay as long as it’s cute. But it’s not. It’s illegal, and it contributes to the destruction of already endangered species,” Cress told The Guardian.
Reality stars Paris Hilton and Khloe Kardashian have separate Instagram selfies with a dressed-up orangutan named Dior, who lives in a private zoo in Dubai.
"This is baby Dior, and she's one years [sic] old, and she's the cutest little girl in the world," Hilton says in her Instagram video.
Kardashian called Dior her "new best friend."
Cress told CNN that "every time a famous face is seen cuddling an ape in this way, it undoes years of our work."
"It lowers the value of the animal, and the public sense of conservation drops," he said.
"If you can laugh at an animal, or you can empathize by how human it is in clothing, then you rob it of its natural wildness. It becomes something comic, or a pet," Cress added.
"So when you have a celebrity like Paris Hilton holding an orangutan with a dress on, they can impact millions of people because their audience is so huge."
Iraqi Kurdistan and Armenia are reportedly hotspots for the wildlife black market and Libya has been a stopover for trafficked apes on the way to Egypt, The Guardian reported.
"The Middle East is both a transit region, and where many rich families have private menageries," Cress told CNN.
Cress explained that owners of private zoos can easily obtain these animals "because law enforcement is relatively weak against a wealthy elite that appear untouchable."
The illegal wildlife trade is even more devastating when you consider how taking baby primates from the wild usually involves killing many of their family members since they resist separation from each other.
"In the case of chimps, which live in families of 10, they're not going to just give their babies up. So you have to kill a lot, to get one," Cress said. "They are then sold to a middleman, then to an exporter, and transported in suitcases and shopping bags—it's that blatant."
Real Madrid soccer player James Rodriguez also posted an Instagram photo of himself with orangutan in Dubai four months ago.
"The selfies taken by Paris Hilton, Khloe Kardashian and others in the Middle East are incredibly damaging to honest conservation efforts, as studies indicate that images of celebrities cuddling apes make the general public care less about conservation and the extinction threats facing these species," Cress told MailOnline.
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