Is there an 'ugly truth' behind these super cute images of an orangutan and a tiger cub?

Claims that animals are being exploited as 'cute images' go viral

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The Independent US

It’s an image that has been shared countless times.

At the Myrtle Beach Safari in South Carolina, a male orang-utan is seen playing with three tiger cubs, even going so as to feed one of them with a bottle of milk. It was an instance, people agreed, of cuteness overload.

But what it the realty. As the images of the cuddly animals at the safari’s The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (TIGERS) do the rounds, an animal rights campaigner has accused the South Carolina facility of exploiting the creatures.

“Exploitation comes in many forms, and, unfortunately, it isn’t always obvious at first glance. Many of you have seen the “cute” pictures of a baby chimpanzee holding white tiger cubs or the photos and videos of an orang-utan with a hound dog,” a blog post written two years ago by the Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, and which is now being linked to again on sites such as The Dodo.

The sanctiary's co-director Diana Goodrich told The Independent she was concerned that the animals were being exploited. She was particularly concerned about the way members of the great apes family were being portrayed.

“I think there are lots of things we would disagree with them about, but we would like them to stop using the Great Apes for entertainment,” she said, speaking from Seattle.

“When you see them on television they are portrayed as pets, but they are not. I think there are a lot of people who are concerned that TIGERS claim they are helping animals but they are doing the opposite.”

The safari in South Carolina is headed by Dr Bhagavan “doc” Antle and denied suggestions that his rare animals were being exploited.

He dismissed Ms Goodrich’s concerns as the view of the “vegan world order” and said he believed some of his critics were motivated by jealousy.

“These images were the number one trending topic in the world. They were on the New York Times, on Facebook. There are people who seem to see a difference between animal welfare and animals right,” he said.

Mr Antle said his safari was in profit and had donated more than a one million dollars to helping animals globally. He said a key to the centre’s success were the “animal ambassadors” who so powerfully made a connection with the human visitors and customers.

“We are unique in the world,” he added.