Here's a hot take for you: Baby animals are cute. I'm pretty sure no one will argue with that. We all know that nothing cures a bad day like watching a baby sloth take a bath. So I totally get why a celebrity visiting the Middle East would take the opportunity to cuddle with a baby orangutan. Unfortunately, that baby most likely represents the slaughter of Africa's great ape population.
In recent years we've seen the likes of Paris Hilton, Khloe Kardashian, rapper Kid Ink and footballer James Rodriguez post selfies to Instagram holding baby orangutan while visiting Dubai. Today, the U.N.'s Great Ape Survival Partnership (GRASP) roundly renounced these photographs, telling CNN "Every time a famous face is seen cuddling an ape in this way, it undoes years of our work."
Paris Hilton alone has 5.7 million Instagram followers; to many of them, the idea of a baby orangutang wearing a dress has now been normalized.
According to the U.N., great apes are being trafficked to Dubai from Africa where they're increasingly being targeted as a luxury pet commodity. The great ape population has had enough problems with deforestation, disease, and being hunted for bushmeat. Where once a poacher might take a live baby ape for extra cash after the mother was killed, now a whole market has sprung up for these babies. With this increased market for exotic pets comes the inherent, horrifying problem that adult apes are too large and to dangerous to traffic, so poachers will simply kill an entire family to get to a single baby—with chimpanzees averaging 10 adult deaths per baby.
According to GRASP's 2013 "Stolen Apes" report, based on extrapolations "it is likely that as many as 22,218 wild great apes were lost between 2005 and 2011 related to the illegal trade, with chimpanzees comprising 64 percent of that number."
So where are all these apes ultimately going? While many go to private zoos owned by wealthy elites in the Middle East, the end destination seems to be China, where they're being trained to perform in circus shows. As GRASP coordinator Doug Cress put it to the Guardian, “Most of the apes there quickly end up riding bicycles and shooting each other with toy guns. The orangutans are used in boxing shows for cheap laughs. It is like cowboys and Indians or cops and robbers. They just clobber each other.”
So, yeah, you might feel #blessed for your wonderful day with all the animals, Khloe, but you also maybe want to do a little research next time.