And the Oscar goes to …

It was the first time I was going to an animal market in Indonesia. I knew all about it, I knew it would be awful. I had no idea.

At LFP we love to give you good news and cute pictures but because of the nature of our work, we often also have not so good news to give. In order to learn what we are up against, we need to educate ourselves on what is actually happening  and we must try and see it from both sides. This was me trying to educate myself and hopelessly trying to grasp at anything rational but ultimately failed.

Filled with civets. Some were dead.

Filled with civets. Some were dead.

Our driver drove us to the edge of Jakarta’s biggest animal market.  As soon as we got out we were slammed with the tropical heat and humidity. What is strange is that the people selling these animals are actually very nice! They would chat, ask questions and make jokes and laugh nonchalantly and not even register all of the suffering animals all around them. It seemed to me like they don’t think animals can suffer. Maybe they are robots? Maybe they just believe animals are so far removed from humans that they do not feel pain, so what they are doing cannot be cruel. To them, they are just earning a living. If they don’t even have a concept of animal cruelty, then maybe the conservation and welfare education NGOs like us offer is misguided?

About 50 baby macaques. No food or water.

About 50 baby macaques. No food or water.

The hardest part was not even seeing the nine stacked cages filled with baby macaques (about 53 of them), tons of civets, fruit bats, hundreds of birds or soft shelled turtles. It was playing the part. Talking to these men and acting like a dumb tourist. Looking at that dying tree shrew and saying “Oh my gosh how cute is that??” Even having a look of disgust was not allowed. If I wanted to see the good stuff, they had to trust me.

Then I saw it: two cages, each with two lorises (one either dead or almost there). The very animals I am working to protect, right in front of me. And I couldn’t do a thing. Except smile.

Needless to say this has definitely re-ignited my fervor for loris (and all) animal conservation. We need to work together, share our knowledge and produce evidence based protocols to mitigate this mess. I never want to feel helpless like that again.

Plenty of more embarrassing things happened to me this week but that wouldn’t really fit in the tone of this post now would it?

Francis

Loris venom investigated

Slow lorises are unique amongst primates in being the only group of venomous primates. Though special in this way, much research remains to be done to understand the role of venom in the ecology of the slow loris. Why are they venomous? Prof. Nekaris recently proposed a series of hypotheses as to the venom function of the slow loris:

1. Anti-predator behaviour
2. Defense against eco-parasites (parasites living on the skin/fur)
3. Communication between slow loris individuals
4. To help in catching prey

How do lorises catch insects and what role does their venom play?

These amongst other venom related questions are being answered by new team member and post doc Grace Fuller. Grace has joined the LFP team in January studying the role of loris venom on the captive slow lorises housed at Cikananga Wildlife Rescue Centre.

Grace is performing experiments in which she presents the lorises with a range of different insects of various sizes and toxicity and records the lorises reaction. She looks at how they catch the insects, how long it takes them to catch the insect, as well as what types of behaviours occur before and after catching an insect. For example does the loris start grooming once it has caught the insect prey?

All of these interesting experiments will help us to understand why lorises are venomous and aid in reintroduction of ex-trade lorises to the wild.

Many slow lorises are found in Asia’s illegal wildlife markets. Their teeth are regularly removed to make them “safe” to keep as pets. Removal of the teeth also removes the ability to use their venom. These individuals can not be returned to the wild, even if saved from the horrible trade markets. They spend the rest of their lives cared for by wonderful staff at Asia’s rescue centres. Those, however, that have fortunately been spared the cruel pulling of their teeth with nail clippers can potentially be reintroduced. The work done by Grace and the LFP team is vital to understand what these lorises need for reintroductions to be successful!

Lady Gaga adds fuels to the slow loris fire

 

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Lady Gaga wanted to use an adorable slow loris in a scene for her new music video, but once the animal had ‘sunk its teeth into her’ – according to contactmusic.com – she banished it from set. This is the second bout of celebrity interaction with the Slow loris in the last 6 months and it is only going to bring more trouble for the endangered animal.

Back in September, Rihanna took a ‘selfie’ with a loris that had been the subject of the illegal pet trade and was being kept in a cage on the streets of Thailand. This prompted an influx of people declaring that they ‘wanted one’ as a pet – and an increase in views of viral videos on YouTube! The slow loris, of which eight species are currently recognised, is a wild animal that is in great danger of becoming extinct and this culture of keeping exotic animals as companions is primarily the reason. Celebrity endorsement of these creatures being cute is not going to help save them! The best thing celebrities could do to help would be to visit rescue centres such as the one in Cikananga and see the result of the pet trade on these poor individuals and support the charities working to protect them.

This incident involving Lady Gaga is even more bizarre though! According to Gigwise “sources reported that a baby kangaroo and exotic goat were also brought to set, but a Californian State Parks Department vetoed their use”. If this is the case, then why was the Loris allowed to be considered for use in the scene? The only saving grace for the species in this instance is that Lady Gaga was (apparently) bitten by the loris – proving that they are not an animal suitable for use as a ‘prop’ or to be kept as a pet.

Contactmusic.com reports that it was an animal trainer that bought all three animals to the shoot for consideration, but how did this person come to own a highly threatened animal such as the slow loris – potentially through the illegal wildlife trade – and why are they still in possession of it? If it is captive bred, US zoos are in dire need of these animals for their currently ‘red lit’ breeding programmes, meaning very few animals breed in captivity.

According to contactmusic.com “Gaga donated $250,000 to the Hearst Castle Preservation Foundation after completing the shoot to thank them for letting her use it”. Will she see the error of her ways and donate to conservation projects affecting the animals she hoped to use in the shoot too? (Or follow in the footsteps of Rihanna, who in fact promoted the photo prop trade). Celebrity endorsement of the charities that support and help protect these endangered animals is needed if we are ever going to ensure their survival – and to have someone as famous across the globe as Lady Gaga backing slow loris conservation via the Little Fireface Project would be amazing and would definitely help bring the plight of the slow loris to the masses. To even stand a chance she needs to know that we exist! With the help of Animals1st and wildeducation on twitter we hope to raise awareness and support for our work, so please get involved – follow LFP and Anna for more updates.

 

This wonderful simulator has been created by Mike Joffe to show just how unsuited to ‘pet life’ Lorises are – read more here. Also, you can sign the petition to remove viral videos from YouTube of pet/captive Lorises here.

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.

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.

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!

‘Cute’ slow loris victim of own internet stardom


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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.

 

Ends

 

 

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 www.ptes.org for more information
  • Anna Nekaris founded the Little Fireface Project in 1993 under the auspices of the Nocturnal Primate Research Group of OxfordBrookesUniversity.  Visit http://www.nocturama.org/ 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.

 

QUOTES FROM ZACC DELEGATES

 

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.

Prof Nekaris Awarded Virginia McKenna Compassionate Conservation Award

Slow Loris Champion Wins 2nd Virginia McKenna Award for Compassionate Conservation

Anna Nekaris & Virginia McKenna

Anna Nekaris & Virginia McKenna

Anna Nekaris presenting Virginia McKenna with the first mock-up of the children's book Slow Loris Forest Protector

Anna Nekaris presenting Virginia McKenna with the first mock-up of the children’s book Slow Loris Forest Protector

We are delighted to announce that Professor Anna Nekaris of Oxford Brookes University and the Little Fireface Project (www.nocturama.org) has been awarded the 2nd Virginia McKenna Award for Compassionate Conservation.

Prof. Nekaris was selected to receive the award for her work in exposing the cruel and destructive trade in slow lorises as pets in South East Asia, and for raising awareness of the plight of these secretive and fascinating animals through academia, the media and field work.

The Little Fireface Project (LFP) began officially in December 2011, building on work carried out by the Nocturnal Primate Research Group at Oxford Brookes since 1993. In response to a burgeoning demand for illegally traded wild slow lorises as pets, fuelled by YouTube videos, LFP launched a formal programme to halt this trade. The Project initiated the first long-term field study of Javan slow lorises, providing vital data to rescue centres to improve success of reintroduction of ex-pet trade victims. It provides training materials and workshops on taxonomy, helping to reduce reintroduction of non-native loris species; conducts market surveys and reports illegal loris sales to authorities; operates a community-based conservation project in Garut, with conservation education and training schemes for trackers, enforcement officers and students; provides alternative incomes to villagers producing loris handicrafts; and actively uses social media to promote its activities, resulting in the removal of the ‘notorious’ Tickling Slow Loris video from wired.com in 2012.

Virginia McKenna OBE, founder of the Born Free Foundation, who met with Prof. Nekaris in Oxford to present the Award, said “I am so delighted that Anna has won this award. I think her work has brought international attention to this little-understood species and her commitment to the individuals she encounters is exactly what Compassionate Conservation is all about. “

The award, sponsored by the Born Free Foundation, is intended to provide support and recognition for researchers, practitioners, organisations and projects that promote and develop the consideration of animal welfare in conservation practice.

Prof. Nekaris intends to use the Award funding to produce an information book in Bahasa Indonesia to educate and empower local people to save slow lorises.

The Born Free Foundation has, at its heart, the interface between animal welfare and conservation, and is keen to promote its agenda of Compassionate Conservation, where the welfare of individual animals is a central consideration in conservation actions. To find out more, go to  www.compassionateconservation.org

Photo props – the unknown loris threat

A few months back I met Mark Mason, who has been working relentlessly to build a new set of enclosures to house slow lorises confiscated from the Thai photo prop trade on Phuket island. A former MSc student of mine, Petra Osterberg, working with the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project, has been doing the same, and in fact, a large proportion of LFP adoption funds went to fund a cage she built for confiscated lorises.

But where are all these lorises coming from? And why is it so bad that  they are being carried around the beaches of Thailand? Does it hurt them to have some innocent photos taken? Isn’t it a nice experience for a tourist to hold a cute animal?

You think we should have learned from our experiences in the past – the beaches of Spain for instance, where chimpanzees were exploited for a similar trade. No matter how cute the wild animal is, it is that…a wild animal. These poor lorises are ripped from their nocturnal forest homes, dazzled by the very loud noises of the bustling streets. Even many people do not like to be out in the town of Patong at night, with bright lights, loud music and even louder tourists. For a slow loris, whose quiet life in the dark forest, it must be horrific, and it can be seen on the faces of these animals, as camera flash after camera flash sees them recoil in typical fear postures. Lorises too need to hold branches to feel secure, and holding on to a person, while dressed in a clown’s costume, is not security – it is no wonder they grasp for the slender neck of a beer bottle when it is offered.

Lorises naturally look passive and ‘cute’ when terrified. They do not necessarily need to be drugged, though some are. But most do have their teeth cut out. These teeth are vital for grooming and gouging gum, their most important food source, so these lorises cannot be returned to the wild. On top of that, most cannot survive for more than a few months in captivity on a diet of fruit and paraded in such stressful conditions, so need to be replaced with another wild loris.  So the lorises that Mark and Petra are rescuing are in a halfway house – we don’t know where they should go. But we do know that every time a tourist takes a picture with a slow loris laughs and holds it with their friends, they encourage this cruel trade. So PLEASE do not support the photo prop trade.

Take a moment to see that these lorises can have a better life. Thanks to Mark and Petra for their work in giving some of them a second chance. These photos are by Mark Mason.