Slow lorises are a unique group of primates found throughout South and Southeast Asia. Their vice-like grip, snake-like movements, shy nature, and most remarkably, their venomous bite, make them unique amongst the primates. They also are to many people undeniably adorable, and to others, nature’s answer to over 100 diseases. Their slow movements make them easy prey to expert hunters who literally empty the forests of these shy primates – amongst the most common mammals seen in Asia’s illegal animal markets, but amongst the rarest spotted even in Asia’s best protected forests.

The Little Fireface Project, named after the Sundanese word for loris, is the world’s longest running loris conservation project, started in 1993, under the auspices of the Nocturnal Primate Research Group of Oxford Brookes University. Our research was highlighted in the award winning 2012 film Jungle Gremlins of JavaWe aim to save lorises from extinction through learning more about their ecology and using this information to educate local people and law enforcement officers, leading  to empathy and empowerment whereby people in countries where lorises exist will want to save them for themselves. This is done through education, media, workshops and  classroom programmes. Our education does not stop in range countries, but also reaches out to potential western purchasers of loris pets.

Want to Find Honey? Ask the Bird Next Door ! - 28/07/2016

Collaboration between human and wildlife is a dream we all made. Such as Cinderella, asking for help while doing her cleaning duty from her rodent friends. In a recently published paper in Science*, researchers from the University of Cambridge described a long-term collaboration between hunter-gatherers in Mozambique and the greater honeyguide (Indicator Indicator). Claire Spottiswoode and her colleagues provided solid evidence of a two-way collaborative communication between humans and a wildlife species. When Yao hunters are looking for honey, they make a specific signature call: a loud trill followed by a sort of grunt that sounds like “brr-hm”. The honeyguide birds then respond with a loud chattering sound to alert the humans of their presence before flying from tree to tree until they find a bee’ nest. Once the bee’s nest has been found, it is up to the humans to do their part of the job by cutting down trees with bee’s nests and smoking the bees out. To reward the greater honeyguides, the honey hunters leave beeswax behind them on beds of leaves. This way birds can access wax they like to consume without having to fear being stung by angry bees!

This type of collaboration was already evoked in some written accounts from the 16th century. But Spottiswoode’s team also quantified the benefits of hunting with honeyguides. They found that they were 3 times more likely to find a bee’s nest with the birds’ help. These outstanding findings lead to more questions, and the researchers are now planning to investigate how young honeyguides learn to collaborate with humans.

Male greater honeyguide eating wax combs taken by a camera trap.

Male greater honeyguide eating wax combs taken by a camera trap. (Photo Credit: Claire Spottiswoode, University of Cambridge)

* C. Spottiswoode et al. Reciprocal signaling in honeyguide-human mutualism. Science. Vol. 353, July 22, 2016, p. 387. doi:10.1126/science.aaf4885.