This week in Loris Land: Bamboo Bed Hopping

Our lorises have been very busy this week. It seems, there is something in the air which has spurred on a bout of frolicking. Lorises all over the land have been spotted doing the deed. On Saturday night Josie was subjected to three hours of loris liaisons of the sexy sort. She was out with tracker Aconk, observing golden guy Mo, it was a particularly cold second shift and she got more than an eyeful!

When the duo arrived to begin their observations of Mo he was lounging about and then put some serious effort into grooming. Little did Josie and Aconk know, he was actually getting himself ready for a big date!! After a while Aconk spotted the eyeshine of another loris edging towards Mo from a hiding place in the Kaliandra mereh. Initially the pair wondered if they were about to witness a standoff as the un-collared loris confidently wandered towards Mo. However, quite the opposite happened and the un-collared loris sidled up and began grooming Mr. Mo. After some social grooming and canoodling between the pair things began heating up and the lorises got down to business.

“At first I was absolutely amazed! I was to witness slow loris mating, it was really exciting. I thought this for about ten minutes, and then it went on and on and on. It actually got a bit embarrassing because they were at it for so long! Especially when Aconk said “Oh they changed position”, I really couldn’t hold back my giggles. In retrospect it was a really cool thing to see, since Javan slow lorises are now critically endangered, I actually witnessed something really special” says Josie.

The pair was inseparable for the rest of the night and for several hours afterwards they groomed one another and curled up on a branch– in a way to only be described as cuddling. They fell asleep early at around 4am, no doubt totally exhausted from their earlier antics.

Alas! That wasn’t the only fornication to take place in loris land this week. Playboy Azka has been up to his old tricks again, this time with cutie loris One Eye! The pair has been spending a great deal of time together of late and on several occasions have been recording sharing their sleeping site. Azka has put a lot of effort into developing a relationship with sweetie One Eye and the pair was observed foraging together last week. In addition, adorably the other night One Eye was seen grooming a baby loris! After a while of bonding between the two, Azka appeared and joined the mother and baby. He even had a turn at grooming the little one! At the end of the night Azka carried the little one on his belly as the trio ventured into the bamboo to sleep.  It was an adorable scene of happy families, although currently we’re unsure who the father of One Eyes baby is. All we can say is that the baby definitely takes after its father because it has two eyes!

Observations on Azka the other night found the trio together again in their bamboo home, grooming the little one for some time. After a while Azka and One eye ventured off together into the bamboo and the evening went in a particularly steamy direction. Again Josie and tracker Aconk – poor souls have witnessed a little too much ‘loris loving’ this week – observed the pair alternate between vigorous mating and foraging for insects for five hours! Our lorises are certainly using up lots of energy during their mating routine and require pauses to refuel!

“Love is in the air!” Aconk joked throughout the shift. At the changeover of shifts, Josie and Aconk explained Azka’s evening’s activities to Pak Dendi and Charlotte. The following morning Charlotte confirmed that the ‘loris loving’ had continued throughout the night and the pair merrily returned to their sleeping spot together.

Loris land has been more like a soap opera than a field site this week! It seems like there’s been a lot of ‘bamboo bed hopping’! We’ll have to keep you updated on our lorises antic’s in the following weeks. Who knows? We might witness another baby boom in a few months, so watch this space – things are heating up.


Wildlife Trade at the Frontline Part 2

This past week three of the LFP staff in Java went out to help at Cikananga Wildlife Centre. It seems that the storm has passed and the worst is over. No animals died whilst we were there and instead we had babies being born. After hearing the sad stories that volunteers Charlotte and Josie returned with it was wonderful to come in and see a one day old loris- what a cute ball of fluff!

Cikananga is a beautiful centre with large enclosures for their animals, but taking on 78 new animals stretches any centre’s available space. There were animals sleeping in transport boxes out of dire need. It was therefore paramount that we help in building new enclosures to move some of these lorises into more suitable and spacious homes. Our tracker and wonderful carpenter Adin got to boss us around all weekend whilst we helped build new enclosures.

Keeper Yoko is new to caring for lorises and our tracker Aconk was wonderful at explaining things we have learnt from the wild. For example, we have recently discovered that our lorises love sleeping in thick bamboo/foliage and therefore we refurbished the enclosures to include lots of bamboo arranged close together so the lorises can ball up in it!

Aconk also suggested that on cold nights or nights with full moons to place more foliage in the enclosures so that the lorises can hide in it. This is something we have observed in the wild as well. A very interesting idea he came up with was to put the water for drinking in flowers instead of drinking cups. Lorises drink water from flowers normally and it is defiantly worth trying to see if it will help these cuties drink more, especially as they are given their vitamins dissolved in water. It was wonderful that he was using his knowledge of wild loris behaviour and thinking of ways in which it could be applied to captive lorises.

Seeing lorises up close like we did at the centre is a far cry from the 20m distance we normally adhere when performing observations. For all of us it was a very good learning experience seeing the lorises up close and personal. Additionally, we all helped with the animal husbandry. For the trackers it was the first time to prepare food, feed animals and clean enclosures. For Aconk the highlight of the stay at Cikananga was feeding the lorises.

Helping rescue centres like Cikananga is paramount in the attempt to combat the illegal wildlife trade. Without a place to house the confiscated animals, many authorities will not perform confiscations. However, caring for so many new animals with injuries and infants is no easy task. It requires many hours of dedication, money and lots of sweat and tears. Thankfully, the lorises are healing of their wounds and many are ready to be moved from the clinic to the quarantine. Let’s hope that good news continues to come from Cikananga and please continue to support them to help care for all these nocturnal cuties.

Slow Loris Movie Night

Slow Loris Movie Night

On Saturday night it was the final of the Cipaganti football tournament. LFP decided to take the opportunity to hold an educational slow loris movie night. We showed the movie “Don’t Let Me Vanish” on the big screen. Before and after the movie questionnaires were handed out to assess the usefulness of such movie nights. We hoped to educate especially adults and farmers, as well as children, on the importance of lorises to the ecosystem and their endangered status due to the wildlife trade. People were so excited to watch a movie on the big screen. Afterwards we showed some other movies about Cipaganti, the Loris Pride Days and even an amateur Halloween movie featuring the LFP team. The latter was met with fits of laughter and ended the evening on a high.



Civet Education – Saving our fireface friends

Civet education

Other animals-low-003

Last week when out observing slow loris Charlie who was moving out and about all over the forest, we nearly stepped on a civet trap. We have never seen a civet trap before. We deactivated it and went back the next day. For the next few days, it was still there and we went round to deactivate it. Though not aimed at lorises, lorises often walk the path and could easily get caught in the trap. We decided to focus our week’s education efforts on civets. Monday morning we split the LFP team into smaller subgroups. Charlotte and Aconk went to talk to the farmers and provide information about the work that LFP does and the importance of civets to the local ecosystem. Pak Dendi and Josie went around looking for traps and thankfully didn’t find any more. All traces of the other track had been removed as well. Remaining team members Denise and Adin went on a mission to find missing loris Tahini. The overall feedback was extremely positive. People seemed really happy to hear about civets and like the civets being on their farms. Thankfully none of the farmers around our field site had set up the trap to catch civets.

At the frontline of the wildlife trade: LFP aids Cikananga in time of crisis

On Thursday 7th November LFP volunteers Charlotte and Josie travelled across Java to Cikananga Rescue Centre. Following the news that 78 Sumatran lorises had arrived at the centre after being confiscated from the exotic pet trade.  The lorises had been living – barely – in horrific conditions; crammed into cages where they really had fought to survive.


The stress of the whole ordeal and the injuries they’d received throughout proved too much to bare for a number of lorises. When the girls arrived at the centre they received the news that already 18 had died. This included several infant lorises, too weak and young to survive rejection from their traumatised mothers.

Now, they will always carry their experience from the darkest side of the pet trade.  For five days the girls helped provide care for 50 lorises living in quarantine. They carried out observations throughout the night to monitor the conditions of sick or injured animals. Their experience with wild lorises meant the girls could point out strange behaviour exhibited by any of the animals. This helped identify animals in need of urgent attention.

During the daytime the girls helped built wire cages which proved a dangerous task as both Charlotte and Josie have the cuts and bruises to show for it. They collected fresh branches to replace rotten vegetation inside cages, making sure they also provided good branches for gauging. The duo also took on the unglamorous task of cleaning cages, frequently finding themselves covered in many unpleasant substances. In the evenings they helped prepare food for the lorises, cutting up fruit and catching insects. Josie temporarily lightened the sombre atmosphere by showcasing her waitressing skills, quickly and efficiently getting the feeding trays back to the hungry lorises.

One evening the girls went to help in the clinic where they got a real feel for the horrors these lorises had lived through. The condition of these nine individuals when they arrived at Cikananga was absolutely critical and demanded the most urgent attention. The injuries they had to show for it proved as such, one young male had a terrible wound that left some skin hanging off his skull. Another loris is likely to lose her eye due to a terribly infected abscess and a pregnant female arrived with a deep gash across her stomach and the Cikananga team really thought she wouldn’t pull through, let alone survive to deliver a baby. Because of the excellent care these lorises received since they arrived at the centre, many of the clinic lorises are now doing well enough to be discharged from the clinic and two have already joined the other quarantine lorises.

Charlotte took on a mothering role and spent several hours holding a malnourished baby which had been admitted to the clinic. After hand fed him crickets and keeping him warm against her chest, she left the clinic feeling hopeful the little one would pull through. Sadly the next morning when she arrived to carry out morning observations, she was given the heart breaking news that he didn’t make it.

Josie found the week extremely challenging on both physically and emotionally, “When I arrived at Cikananga I only had the facts, 78 lorises, many in poor conditions, many had already died. I didn’t know what to expect since already this number was beyond anything I could imagine. When we got to the centre and they told us 18 had passed, it was heart wrenching. Already more lorises had died than Little Fireface Project has collared for their observation studies and we are SO SO attached to our lorises. It was dark when we ventured over to meet the quarantine lorises, so as the door opened and my headlamp lit up with room I was immediately overwhelmed by how many eyes reflected back at me. Then we wandered between the cages and got a glimpse of the wounds on some of the lorises. What I saw broke my heart and I couldn’t hold back my tears. These animals that I am so passionate about had obviously been to hell and back. Many of them looked completely defeated and almost all of them displayed abnormal behaviour. While I was at the centre I became particularly fond of a mother and her three babies. She had a horrible injury on her chest which was infected and seeping puss but still she battled on for her babies. Tragically the smallest of her little ones became sick, deteriorated quickly and passed away one night. Hearing about the horrors surrounding the animal trade in Asia and actually seeing them first hand are two very different things. A number of confiscated animals are not just a number of confiscated animals when you clean them, feed them and watch them every day. The team at Cikananga are truly wonderful, working around the clock to care for these animals and they need all the help they can get.”

Charlottes take on the whole experience; “Amongst the death, dirt and despair I feel so proud to have helped such a wonderful team through a time where sleep is but a dream. True dedication was never more so deserved as a description of the efforts made by the Cikananga staff. It almost always seems that the hardest efforts and sacrifices made by people in the world are the ones that go unseen or heard by the masses. But when you settle down tonight to watch TV on a nice comfy sofa, spare a thought for the people working around the clock, on their hands and knees at the mercy of the wildlife trade to care for the many animals ripped from the wild and subjected to such vile conditions. As a result their injuries are like that of a gruesome horror movie, except this is real and there is no end to the show real of horrors.”

Charlotte and Josie found their time with the lorises in Cikananga to be a real eye opening experience on the grim reality of the animal trade and the fallout following a large confiscation. Slow Lorises are wild animals and should be left in the wild where they belong. A pet that needs its teeth removed to prevent a venomous bite is not a good pet. A good pet should not come from a small, dirty, smelly cage crammed with other animals. Don’t support the illegal trade in Slow Lorises because the outcome is the unnecessary death or deterioration of these beautiful creatures.

Tahini: A star among the firefaces

We have observed Tahini since April 2012, when she was only a tiny dot! A few weeks old. Below are our first pictures of her from the wild…

Tahini got her name during a naming competition at Bristol Zoo! She was so confident and friendly. We saw her munch gum, catch birds, and play with the neighbouring lorises Azka and Guntur, have a love affair with Yogi, and bond with mama Tereh.

Last week the team wrote this post about her dispersal from her native range. It was time to leave home!

Meanwhile in Cipaganti, Tahini has had us running around in a blind panic since her signal recently disappeared from her usual stomping grounds near Mommy Tereh. After several days of playing the “We no find Tahini” game, Denise and Adin set out on an epic quest across the land in search of the lost loris. They succeeded and found Tahini on extended vacation in an area of forest near Kepala Desa’s (village chief) office on the other side of the village! Playboy Azka led his observers on a wild goose chase around the forest before finally settling on a favourite hotspot for gum trees. Here he hung upside down gnawing away happily for nearly two hours, stopping periodically to survey his surroundings. Another loris who spent a great deal of time hanging out this week was Charlie. She was seen catching moths for over an hour whilst suspended by her feet from a bamboo branch. Lorises are such incredible acrobats!

Yesterday, 12 Nov, We received this news:

  • I have some bad news to share. Dendi and Adin went on rounds tonight and when they went to find Tahini they picked up her signal in exactly the same place as the sleep sight of this morning. The went to look for the signal and found her collar and her skull. Tahini is dead. They could not find any of her body. They brought the skull back- it had no flesh, just covered in mud. They found it near the river and Dendi thinks that she might have fallen in the river and washed down-stream. He was quite affected and couldn’t find the words.

    We are going tomorrow morning to check if we can find anymore of her remains and we are going to go to Kepala Desa (village chief) to talk about the loris bridges. I really want them to be made. I’m sorry to have to share this really sad news. We are all really sad.

    We will soon launch 2014 adoptions. Our newest young lady Lucu will represent our young lorises. Clearly learning about dispersal is so important. Funds from these adoptions will go to make Loris Bridges, so if our babies need to disperse through the village, they have the best chance of being safe.

Empty forests, full markets

The LFP team travelled to one of Java’s big cities this week to go undercover and carry out a market survey. We posed as completely naive tourists in order to browse the stalls without attracting any attention that might put us in danger. From the moment we pulled into the dusty market place we got into character “oohing” and “ahhing at the “adorable” animals. Cage upon cage of mistreated and distressed animals stared back at us as we wandered about the narrow alleyways. Animals both domestic and exotic crammed into grotty dirty cages, most no larger than your average hamster cage. We didn’t see any primates for sale but were assured by our guide that on other days they are openly for sale on the market. The stakes are a little higher now though because sellers are more conscious of the conservation status of Slow Lorises.

Despite not seeing any lorises the day we went to the market we came face to face with many other residents of the forests where our own lovely lorises live. From one particularly dirty cage a Civet cat stared up at us with huge sad eyes, it was absolutely heart wrenching. We then spotted another cage further back and were mortified to see that it contained several baby civets pressed together. The seller proudly told our guide that they were wild caught very recently. We doubted they would survive very long having been separated from their mother at such a young age. Fruit bats huddled in a shaded corner of one cage which had been left out under the baking hot sun. Elsewhere, one owl seemed to have had no choice but to grow around its cage. Its wings pinned above its back and its head hung near its feet – completely defeated.  Sugar gliders are a new craze here and we saw very many for sale throughout the day.

Many of you will never experience the horror show that is an animal market; the sounds of the rainforest and the smell of a rubbish dump in the high summer. Almost all the animals we saw displayed behavioural abnormalities, but what else would you expect? They really are in hell under a hot tin roof.

Sadly, the traditional Indonesian animal markets aren’t the only place you can purchase an exotic pet. Even the glitzy Mall had exotic animals for sale outside its grand entrance. Several sellers had set up cages containing a range of animals for shoppers to haggle for. They even had a kitten Leopard cat wearing a pink ribbon! Despite the cages being much cleaner than those found in market place it’s still incredibly distressing to see exotic animals being sold so freely. At this rate there’ll be no wildlife left in Java’s forests. They’re all for sale at the nearest animal market!

28 Oct News from the Jungle!

Social lorises

Javan Slow Loris

Observing animals at night is no easy task! But the hours spent this week in the forest led to some wonderful discoveries! One of the younger study animals was being very friendly this week. On first shift we saw two lorises in the same tree. I got very excited and pulled out the video camera to zoom in on what I was seeing. Then looking at the screen I realized they were not sitting next to each other, but instead Utari and Mo were grooming each other. What a lovely sight one hanging upside down to groom the other. And my excitement did not end there as the very next night we found little Utari up in a tree all cuddled up to a female loris Shirley.


Where do the lorises sleep?

Javan Slow Loris

We’re starting an exciting new study here at Little Fireface Project: looking at the usage of sleeping sites by Slow Lorises. We want to find out whether there are common characteristics of the different sleep sites used by lorises. The findings of our research may allow us to propose a reason for the selection of certain sleeping sites. For example, Lorises may choose sleeping sites close to their favourite feeding trees or they may prefer to sleep in tall leafy trees which well conceal them from predators. It’s very exciting because this kind of research – which is becoming more popular with primatologists – has yet to be conducted for Slow Lorises! At the moment we just don’t know if Lorises consciously choose their sleeping sites!

The findings of our research might have significant implications for the future of Slow Loris conservation. Since primates spend almost half of their lives at sleeping sites and the presence of preferable sleeping sites might be essential for survival of the species. In the least, from our research we hope to gain a more thorough understanding of what constitutes “ideal habitat” for Slow lorises.

Earlier this week Denise and I headed out to begin to survey sleep sites under a blazing tropical sun. We followed directions to a GPS marked sleeping site used by one of our radio collared lorises less than two weeks ago. Sadly, we arrived at a completely barren field with scattered patches of scorched earth; there were no signs of any suitable sleeping site. Then we spotted blackened bamboo stumps on the far side of the field. A group of farmers sitting in the shade nearby were watching us, so we asked them if bamboo had been cut from the field. They nodded and told us it was cut down last week.

Rates of deforestation in Indonesia are the highest in the world, but its one thing to simply read this fact. However, it’s a much more terrifying reality when witnessed firsthand. A large area of Loris habitat was present one week and gone the next! And this is happening throughout the region. That’s what makes this research so important, if we can determine the characteristics of suitable sleeping sites we can make more informed decisions on which areas of habitat urgently need protecting. We’re in a race against time to save the land of the Loris!


Education, Education and Education.

This week we focused on education here at the Little Fireface Project headquarters.

This week we went to the farms. The slow lorises around the LFP green house live in a mosaic environment also known as an agroforest environment. This means that the forest patches are interspersed with farmlands. Because the lorises live in such environments it is really important to inform the local people of their presence on their farms and the positive effect of lorises to their farms.

We went out as a small team and told the farmers about the fact that lorises eat their crop pests as they are insectivorous, that they don’t eat their crops, but, do pollinate them. The farmers were so excited to be given information and most had seen lorises on their farms. We hope that with such information they will be proud to have lorises on their farms and protect them from possible. We gave them all a beautiful loris bandana and sticker to keep!

Our next education trip led us to the local school on Saturday morning to teach the children about the lorsises. We had a lovely morning in which the children wrote stories about the lorises. Though not used to writing stories and with some hesitant glances we ended up with some very accurate and lovely accounts of lorises living in the forest. Some even featured quotes like, “don’t keep lorises as pets”, “lorises are forest protectors” and “don’t let them vanish.” After that we taught them the English names of 10 loris related words. Want to try your hand at some Bahasa Indonesian?

  1. Loris: kukang
  2. Forest: hutan
  3. Night: malam
  4. Tree: Pohon
  5. Flower: bunga
  6. Pollinator: penyerbukan
  7. Insect: serangga
  8. Farmer: pentane
  9. Venom: racun
  10. Love: cinta

“Saya cinta kukang” therefore means “I love the loris” and by the end of the class the children were all saying this with pure excitement and joy.



Nature Club

It is a sad reality that here in Indonesia much of the children’s education lacks creativity or the opportunity for them to use their imagination. So it is no surprise that when we asked the children what they most enjoy doing during the LFP nature club sessions, that they replied ‘’Stories and drawing!’’. This is of course what the LFP nature club is all about, fun, creative conservation education and so this week’s session was just that! Taking inspiration from our wonderful forest protector teacher’s pack, Boris the loris finger puppets came along to the session and the children all got to decorate their own. We had some very lifelike creations but also some multi-coloured Lorises too! There were even some accidents when making the small finger slots ending in a few legless Lorises but overall it was a successful colouring session and the children seemed more than proud with the results. As newly budding forest protectors and with their love for stories we decided to end the session reading our very own ‘’Loris forest protectors’’ book written by Dr. Anna Nekaris herself. The children settled down for the story with intense excitement and listened quietly as Pak Dendi read to them. Bringing the story to life Pak Dendi animated each page with funny movements and voice impersonations. The children laughed and smiled all the way through! As I watched the children and the story came to an end, I couldn’t help but smile to myself knowing that fun and creative conservation education in Cipiganti is here to stay and so are the smiles on all the children’s faces. Nature club rules!


Sad goodbyes


We want to end this week’s blog post with a large thank you to volunteer Markus Lazarte. Markus came to Cipaganti for 3months to help collect data on the behaviour of the lorises and mapped out our entire study site! We are very thankful and wish him all the best of luck in his masters degree.



‘Cute’ slow loris victim of own internet stardom


Decline in rare primate linked to viral videos

(paper at above link)


The results of new research published today in scientific journal Plos One show that unwitting watchers of YouTube videos are indirectly responsible for the demise of one of the world’s rarest primates, the slow loris (Nycitcebus spp.). The illegal trade in wild slow lorises, fuelled by their demand as pets in Asia and elsewhere, appears to be influenced by people watching clips of the primates on popular video-sharing site YouTube.


A team of researchers from Oxford Brookes University, with additional funding from the People’s Trust for Endangered Species, measured the public’s perceptions of the rare slow loris by analysing over 12,000 comments posted over a three-year period in response to a single video on YouTube featuring one of the primates as a pet. One in ten viewers who left a comment wrote that they wanted a ‘cute’ slow loris as a pet, suggesting a direct link between the illegal trade in slow lorises and their presence on YouTube videos.  Furthermore, over 100 individual slow lorises were recorded in videos on YouTube, more than are currently found across accredited zoos.


Professor Anna Nekaris, lead author of the paper and an international expert on slow lorises says:  “Videos of wild animals such as slow lorises that portray them as cute and cuddly pets in a home-setting can serve to reinforce people’s likelihood to want to acquire one.  Without further context to the video, it may not be obvious to the general public that these primates are in fact protected species and that in all likelihood they have been caught in the wild and traded illegally.”


Slow lorises are a group of eight species of nocturnal primate found throughout South and Southeast Asia; all species are protected in each of the 13 range countries where they occur.  They are unique amongst primates in that they have a toxic bite.  For this reason, traders clip the teeth of captured slow lorises with wire cutters, nail clippers or pliers before they are sold illegally in markets.  Sadly, these animals often die in transit from infection or stress even before reaching the market.


“The number of slow lorises making an appearance on the internet is increasing – a reflection of the rampant illegal international trade,” adds Nekaris.  “Without a shadow of a doubt, the slow lorises we see in most videos on YouTube are derived directly from the wild and not the result of captive breeding facilities.  The reproductive success of captive slow lorises in accredited breeding facilities such as zoo is extremely low, making it unlikely that any captive lorises have been bred commercially.  Illegal wildlife trade is committed on a massive scale worth billions, rivalling drug and arms trafficking.  Yet there is currently no recourse on unregulated social media sites such as YouTube to flag up wildlife crime.”


The study also analysed the effect of celebrity endorsement on people’s desire to acquire a slow loris as a pet.  Celebrity endorsement is a well-known technique used by marketers to influence consumer behaviour and the way products are perceived.  In this case, celebrities who suggested their followers watch slow loris videos on YouTube because they found the creatures ‘cute’ or ‘irresistible’, led to thousands of additional people watching them.


In addition to the illegal trade for pets, other major threats to slow lorises include the rise in the number of slow lorises used as ‘photo props’ in popular tourist destinations in Thailand, hunting for their body parts which are used in traditional medicine practices in Asia, and habitat loss.





Notes for Editors

  • People’s Trust for Endangered Species has been helping to ensure a future for many endangered species throughout the world since 1977.  Visit for more information
  • Anna Nekaris founded the Little Fireface Project in 1993 under the auspices of the Nocturnal Primate Research Group of OxfordBrookesUniversity.  Visit for more information
  • Since 2007, all species of slow lorises have been included on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), precluding all international trade.
  • Fifteen thousand individual slow lorises have been recorded at illegal animal markets in Indonesia alone.  This toll excludes animals that have died in transit from their wild habitat to the markets.

Zoos and Field Conservationists Call for Worldwide Action to Stop Illegal Wildlife Trade


More than 200 conservationists representing over 40 zoos as well as wildlife programs in 36 countries have called on governments around the world to immediately increase the resources needed to combat the alarming rise in the illegal wildlife trade.  Meeting in Des Moines, Iowa, earlier this month, zoo officials, scientists, and wildlife experts with the 9th Zoos and Aquariums Committing to Conservation Conference (ZACC) agreed that urgent action is needed to combat the well-organized and heavily armed criminals who are draining the world’s ecosystems of wildlife and threatening human populations.

On the heels of the U.S. government’s recent announcement of $10 million to assist African countries with anti-poaching efforts to protect elephants, rhinos and other wildlife, the ZACC delegates urged all governments and international groups to launch sustained campaigns to stop the illegal killing of wildlife, including increased law enforcement with prompt and serious punishments for wildlife crime, more cooperation between governments to combat cross-border activity, and campaigns to raise awareness among consumers about the illegal wildlife trade.

ZACC delegates also noted that the wildlife trade was devastating imperiled species on several continents including the world’s most iconic species such as big cats and great apes, sharks and rays, countless birds, turtles and other reptiles, and lesser-known animals, such as pangolins and slow lorises.  The trade is feeding demand for illegal traditional medicine, exotic pets, bushmeat, and other wildlife products such as ivory.  In parts of the world, poaching and overexploitation have created the “empty forests” phenomenon where even small species such as bats, birds, and rodents have been wiped out.

The illegal wildlife trade is not a subsistence activity, but rather an industry based on organized crime worth multibillions of dollars annually.  In addition to decimating animal populations worldwide and robbing current and future generations of their irreplaceable natural heritage, the illegal wildlife trade has been linked to organized criminal activities such as the illicit drug trade, weapons proliferation, and human trafficking.   In many parts of the world, the illegal wildlife trade is generating money that funds terrorism.




Dr. Anna Nekaris, Professor of primate conservation at Oxford Brookes University and founder and director of the Little Fireface Project based in Indonesia stated, “The number of animals for sale in markets out scales their ability to reproduce.  The illegal trade is a tragic waste of animal life and meets no human needs, and in fact undermines the future well-being of humankind.”


Julie Sherman, executive director of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance, remarked, “The trade in African primates sold as pets, tourist attractions or bushmeat is decimating wild populations. This illegal trade threatens the survival of our closest relatives, chimpanzees, gorillas and bonobos.  Experts estimate 5-15 apes are killed by hunters for each one that is sold.”


Dr. Marc Ancrenaz of the NGO Hutan and the Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Program based in Malaysia commented that, “We are on the verge of losing the last representatives of the world’s iconic species such as rhinos, tigers and elephants.  These animals have shared the planet with us since the dawn of humankind, and they are in danger of going extinct in the next 50 years.  Stronger enforcement of existing laws and increased efforts on the ground are urgently needed to halt this tragedy.”


From John Lukas, president of the Okapi Conservation Project, Epulu, Democratic Republic of Congo, “The worldwide demand for elephant ivory has destabilized entire regions of D.R. Congo.  The sale of illegal ivory funds armed militias that terrorize human and wildlife communities alike in pursuit of power and wealth.”


William Robichaud, coordinator of the Saola Working Group of the IUCN SSC Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group said, “Wildlife trade is the greatest immediate threat to wildlife in Asia today.  Many threatened non-target species such as the saola, are caught up in the slaughter as by-catch.  It is a quite catastrophe.”


Quyen Vu, founder and director of Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV) stated, “The illegal wildlife trade has become a critical threat to global biodiversity.  The demand for wildlife in the form of exotic pets, traditional medicine, and bushmeat is supported by a vast criminal network stretching around the globe linking poachers and consumers.  It is time to unite globally to take urgent action before the magnificent diversity of the planet is lost along with its roots that are embedded within human cultures.”


Trade facts


  • Wildlife trade is the number one threat to slow lorises. Used as photo props for tourists, considered a cure to over 100 diseases in SE Asian traditional medicines, and with a world-wide burgeoning pet trade, partly as a result of a illegal YouTube videos, all species of slow loris are on the road to extinction.
  • Rhino poaching, especially in southern Africa, is continuing to devastate populations.  The International Rhino Foundation estimates that at least one rhino has been lost every 7 hours in South Africa this year so far.
  • The last Vietnamese rhino was killed by poachers in 2009 and the western black rhino was declared extinct in 2011 largely due to the wildlife trade, sending two distinct subspecies to extinction.


  • As many as 30,000 elephants are slaughtered by poachers annually for their ivory.


  • Forest elephants have declined by 62 percent in the past ten years due to poaching.


  • Tiger populations have declined by 95 percent over the past 100 years.  Only 3,200 tigers remain with an estimated 1,000 females.


  • Ninety-seven million sharks were cruelly captured and killed for their fins in 2010.


  • 40,000-60,000 pangolins were killed in 2011 in Vietnam alone. Several Asian species have recently been classified as Endangered.


  • Big cats, such as lions and leopards, are now being killed to replace tiger parts used in traditional Chinese medicine.