If you’re looking for the latest example of celebrity foolishness when it comes to animals, look no further than Lady Gaga’s decision to include a critically endangered slow loris in her latest music video, “G.U.Y. (Girl Under You).” The decision rather predictably ended in tears, after the wild animal reportedly “nipped” her as the video was being filmed at Hearst Castle in California.
In addition to the slow loris, a baby kangaroo and an “exotic” goat were apparently brought along to the shoot by an animal trainer, but only the loris made the final cut. After the animal bit Lady Gaga, however, it was decided that it should not be included in the video after all. A source told the NY Post that Lady Gaga later wanted to use the goat, but “the State Parks guy said, ‘absolutely not’!”
Let’s give it up for the State Parks guy!
Prof. Anna Nekaris, founder of the Little Fireface Project (aimed at saving the slow loris) thinks that the loris in question was most likely obtained illegally: “I am aware of some professional animal handlers either obtaining a slow loris illegally through smuggling or buying a slow loris from a reputed professional breeder. But these animals are so difficult to breed … the likelihood that it was wild-born seems more likely.”
Nekaris also believes that Gaga may have put herself in danger, as slow lorises are the only kind of primates whose bite can be venomous.
She says, “The slow loris bite never evolved to kill a human, but many people are sensitive to the toxin, and a bite can result inanaphylatic shock and death. Many such cases are anecdotal – that is, a bitten person never felt the need to publish it in a medical journal – but in almost all areas where I have studied slow lorises there are reports that people have died or lops body parts (e.g. a finger or half an arm!) from the bite. At the very least, the wounds take weeks to heal.”
These nocturnal animals are under threat because of deforestation, the exotic pet trade (the demand for lorises as pets is largely driven by misleading YouTube videos such as “Tickling Slow Loris”), and the trade in “cute” tourist photographs.
But then, Lady Gaga is no stranger to exploiting vulnerable animals in order to generate publicity. Remember the meat dress, anyone?