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Monday, April 22, 2013

S is for Slow Loris

Lorises in general are small to medium sized primates.  There are five subspecies of slow loris, though I am focusing on the Greater slow loris (Nycticebus coucang).  All five species (Bengal (N. bengalensis), Bornean (N. menagensis), Javan (N. javanicus), and pygmy (N. pygmaeus) being the other four) are from Asia.  The greater slow loris is found in a range from the tip of Thailand out through Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore, plus some smaller neighboring islands.  

As you can guess by the name, slow lorises are generally slow moving animals.  They spend their days in the trees and are active at night.  They prefer living on forest edges due to the higher abundance of insects- their main prey.  Like other nocturnal animals, lorises have large eyes to help them see.  Their eyes are located at the front of their head, and like other primates they possess opposable thumbs which they use for gripping branches.  This is especially useful during the day when they curl up into balls to sleep in the trees. 



Slow lorises also also eat fruit, small animals, bird eggs, gum from trees, and nectar.  They have developed one of the longest tongues of any primate in order to reach the nectar.  Lorises will occasionally hang from a branch with their rear legs to catching passing prey, but in general they will keep all four feet in contact with a branch.


Slow lorises continue to live up to their names when it comes to reproduction.  It takes six months for these ladies to produce a baby that weighs under 50g (that's about 50 paper clips).  Once born the baby climbs up the mother's belly fur and remains there.  


Lorises can live up to 25 years, if they are able to avoid predation, hunting, and the pet trade.  Lorises are very well known in Asian medicine as the animal which can cure 100 diseases.  This makes them greatly desirable to hunters.  And they are generally easy to acquire due to their slow pace, habitat range, and habit of clinging to branches rather than running.

Lorises are also gaining ground in the pet trade.  The worst part about this actually has to do with their unique feature.  Lorises are the only primate to produce venom. Pretty dangerous venom, too.  It is not positive yet what this venom is used for.  However, to avoid being bitten and envenomed, the captors will remove the lorises teeth.  This will often lead to infection, abscesses, and death after starvation.  Yet another reason the exotic pet trade is a horrible place.  So as adorable videos of these critters gain more popularity in the internet, they are facing the consequences.




Combine these factors with the standard habitat loss and fragmentation and the slow loris is currently at vulnerable status on the IUCN Red List.  I didn't mean to get too depressing there.  Lorises are gaining conservation attention and are listed as an Appendix I species in the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES).  This essentially means they are protected from international commercial trade.  If you want to help with their conservation, you can find more information here.