Russian zoo’s raccoon in ‘erotic’ video dispute

A raccoon in a zooImage copyright
Getty Images

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There are conflicting accounts about the raccoon’s behaviour during filming in the studio (archive pic)

A Moscow zoo is suing a video studio that hired one of its raccoons and made what the zoo calls an “erotic” video.

The petting zoo – where children can feed and interact with animals – sometimes rents animals to filmmakers.

Spokesman Viktor Kiryukhin told the BBC the raccoon – Thomas – returned from the studio traumatised. “We noticed he was attracted to women’s breasts.”

Video firm Art-Msk called the zoo’s lawsuit “absurd”. They also said the raccoon stole a model’s bra on set.

Art-Msk shoots video clips for advertisements. Russian media quoted its marketing manager Valery Bogatov as saying they had requested a trained animal, but got Thomas “who was young and ran off all the time”.

Legal wrangling

According to the zoo, the deal in August 2016 was for Thomas to be used in a regular advertisement.

But the zoo says that when it saw the footage on social media, featuring a naked model, it complained and asked for all video and photos to be withdrawn.

After the request failed, the zoo filed a lawsuit in October, also demanding compensation for damages caused to the raccoon.

The zoo says it renewed the lawsuit on Tuesday because no action had been taken.

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This photo from the zoo shows Thomas and the text of the lawsuit

Art-Msk’s Valery Bogatov argued that the video was not erotic because it was destined to be broadcast on federal television. An erotic film would have been illegal, he said.

Viktor Kiryukhin however said Thomas’s interest in women’s breasts suggested that during filming they had “put out some treats for him, so he associated breasts with a treat”.

The raccoon’s behaviour since his return had unsettled female zoo staff.

“It took two to three months to change his behaviour. Now he is happy again… but he was sad before,” he told the BBC.

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Campaigners with a banner reading: “Down with exploitation of raccoons in videos!”

The zoo calls it “immoral to mix nature with eroticism”. The zoo’s motto is “little animals are not toys”.

A nature conservation group has backed the zoo’s cause in the raccoon case, and “anti-exploitation” activists rallied in Moscow’s Sokolniki district on 12 March.

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Mr Bogatov has threatened to counter-sue the zoo, and to claim compensation for the damaged bra, the Russian blogsite tjournal reports..

Some Russian media have suggested the lawsuit is a public relations stunt. A statement the zoo posted on social media about the case featured plenty of socially savvy hashtags, including #interestingmoscow and #scandal.

But the zoo’s press service said it was not orchestrated, and alleged the video had undermined the reputation of a family-friendly petting zoo.

Russian zoo’s raccoon in ‘erotic’ video dispute