Slow Loris Outreach Week Success!

By Anna Nekaris

My journey to study Asia’s lorises began in 1993 at a conference at Duke University’s Primate Centre (now the Duke Lemur Centre). The conference, aptly entitled Creatures of the Dark – the Nocturnal Prosimian, was attended by some of prosimiology’s greatest names – Pierre Charle-Dominique, Simon Bearder, Patricia Wright, Robin Crompton, Yves Rumpler and many others. Still, only a few talks represented a major branch of the nocturnal primates – the lorises. Helga Schulze presented her beautiful drawings of captive slender lorises – a now famous ethogram. And Lon Alterman – large to the amusement of the crowd – presented the first behavioural study of slow loris venom – a trait we know now is a fascinating biological fact, and although very rare in mammals, is no cause for amusement!

I realised that a huge gap existed in our knowledge of the world’s primates, and my the first leg of my journey led me to PhD research in India. With renowned primatologist Mewa Singh as my mentor, we combed South India’s forests for slender lorises with only a tiny handful of sightings. In those days, when beautifully written letters ruled our communication sphere, I had only been back at my university at Washington University St Louis, for a matter of weeks when Prof Singh wrote to me excitedly in his boyish hand – we found slender lorises! You can see them everywhere, on fences, on roads, calling from the top of the tea shop…and my PhD was in order.

We discovered that slender lorises were highly insectivorous – in a whole year 97% of their diet was insects – 100s per night gobbled up like crunchy popcorn. They were super social, following each other nose to bum as they clambered noiselessly -yes they can do that – into their social sleep sites. And they were so fast with these tiny banana-sized primates sharing home ranges the size of three football fields.

The journey then took me to Sri Lanka where I wanted to see the ‘other slender lorises’ and found a whole new species – the tiny and adorable red slender lorises that clings to Sri Lanka’s tiny rainforest patches. This led to my first radio-tracking study of a loris species – with these even tinier primates moving even faster (they can race walk!) and having even huger home ranges!

All the while, I received small messages – since internet and email still were not popular – that the slow lorises all over the rest of Asia were in extreme threat. Could I Help? Could I come to this country or that? `I finally in 2006 headed to Java, then later to Singapore, in 2007 to Sumatra, in 2008 to Cambodia, in 2009 to Thailand, not to mention visits to China, Vietnam and NE India, to see the plight of the loris first-hand. I wondered how no one had taken up their plight? A few organisations had a loris on their list of the many species they might help – but they were being annihilated…..then IT happened.

In 2009, Sonya hit our screens -that loveable Russian-dwelling loris, seen by millions being tickled in a brightly lit room. The world suddenly loved the loris – but for all the wrong reasons – the problem that had struck Asia for so many years had become global – just about everyone seemed to want a loris as a pet.

Thus the Little Fireface Project was born – and all the news you can continue to read here, on our Facebook page, via our Twitter posts, our YouTube channel and our newsletter – not to mention our scientific publications, government documents and action plans.

I want to take this moment – the last day of SLOW week – to thank our wonderful supporters who have funded this vital work – you cannot imagine how much our hearts go out to you for deigning to support the lorises – so often known as brown unimportant nocturnal creatures. I want to thank all the wonderful volunteers who drew us logos, lorises, picture books, helped with web design, donated photographs, items for sale, had carboots, yoga classes and weddings for the lorises! And those who just donated their time! Every second is valued by us! I would like to thank those who bought a shop items and wore it around -perpetuating the message that lorises are not pets! And those who adopted a loris that allowed us to to do vital work like responding to emergencies for former pets who needed rescuing. And I want to thank all of you who support us on the social networks – every click – every share – honestly and truly – can help save these beautiful wonder little firefaces – should that fire go out the world will really be a darker place.

 

Victims of the photo prop trade: Helping slow lorises be slow lorises!

 

By Stephanie Poindexter

I have been I have been mesmerized by the physical agility of primates for as long as I can remember. As a primate lover himself my dad and I would make regular trips to the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, to watch all of the crazy way primates could twist and turn their bodies. Since those days at the zoo I have spent hours watching chimpanzees, spider monkeys, capuchins, marmosets, and tamarins, but over the last year I was lucky enough to fall in love with a new group of primates called lorises.

Much like the monkeys and apes I watched with my dad, lorises can contort their bodies in unique ways, which helps them move through the forest and reach for things they need. Unfortunately in some captive environments their wide range of postures can become limited and as a personal fan of how primates use their bodies, I enjoy looking for ways to restore and maintain this range.

During my MSc in Primate Conservation at Oxford Brookes University, I decided to further look at the effects of gum-based enrichment on promoting natural postures in rescued slow lorises.  After multiple meeting with Anna Nekaris and 8 months of planning, I finally made the long 30-hour journey from Chicago to Bangkok.  Nancy Gibson, the founder of Love Wildlife Foundation in Thailand graciously allowed me to study the three species of slow lorises she helps to manage at a rescue center in Bang Phra, Thailand.

Before I knew it 3 months of nightly observations had passed by and I had results! I found that introducing various gum-based enrichments in addition to having a well-designed enclosure could be used to promote natural postures and behaviors.  While I was very excited to see some of those “lost” postures resurface, I wondered how this contributed to alleviating the greater issues plaguing slow lorises?

In Thailand slow lorises are popular pets and are frequently paraded as photo props in popular tourist areas. Knowing little about the special needs of these cryptic primates, private owners are rarely able to provide proper care. By the time these ex-pets and photo props get to rescue centers they can be in pretty bad shape. Creating environments and scenarios similar to the ones they have evolved to survive helps to maintain their “lorisy” specializations.

While I spent most nights watching the lorises, I found time during the day to observe their preference between enclosure sleeping site options. During 2 of 3 months I checked to see where each loris decided to sleep during the day. Having many nest box options and branch options, almost all of the slow lorises picked branches.  

The number of slow lorises arriving in rescue and government confiscation centers continues to grow.  Studying the ways that various aspects of captivity affects the individual and group wellbeing needs more attention and I hope that my research can contribute to helping captive lorises live long healthy lives.

Description: Macintosh HD:Users:stephanie:Pictures:iPhoto Library.photolibrary:Masters:2014:06:30:20140630-132819:IMG_2955.JPG

Group of rescued slow lorises sleeping together in branches.

 

Description: Macintosh HD:Users:stephanie:Pictures:iPhoto Library.photolibrary:Masters:2014:06:17:20140617-163605:IMG_2713.JPG

Bengal slow lorises pausing during suspensory walking.

 

Description: Macintosh HD:Users:stephanie:Pictures:iPhoto Library.photolibrary:Masters:2014:05:30:20140530-143331:IMG_2342.JPG

Bengal slow loris upon arrival at a rescue center in Thailand.

 

 

 

Slow loris venom can kill humans

Field biologist and conservationist George Madani describes his near-death experience with a slow loris. This account is soon to be published as a medical case study written by Madani and Nekaris in the Journal of Venomous Animals Including Tropical Diseases. Without medical intervention, George almost certainly would have died…

As a field biologist working in Australia I’ve had my fair share of perilous creatures to contend with. Deadly snakes with venom potent enough to kill a man several times over. Bone crunching, limb tearing crocodiles lurking in billabongs and rivers of the north . Even our toilets aren’t safe with the infamous Redback spider lurking in their favourite haunt of the noble outback dunny.

So when I visited Borneo a couple of years ago I thought the greatest danger I might face would have perhaps been with one of their legendary vipers or cobras. Maybe I would end up as lunch from an elusive neck seizing clouded leopard or perhaps being trampled by a herd of startled stampeding jungle elephants. Little did I think that I would be undone by a small, cute and furry little mammal.

Having been afflicted with a desire to catch and admire most critters from a young age I met my match in Borneo by what I thought to be the most unlikely of candidates. It was with considerable excitement that I came across my first wild slow loris, which inadvertently led to too close an encounter and ultimately the teeth of this nocturnal primate sunk deeply into my finger.

Loris Bite by George Madani

George after a young Nycticebus kayan deeply bit into his finger

Following a painful and frightening adventure into anaphylaxis I had a crash course into understanding that these cute little forest gremlins pack quite the punch being one of the worlds very few venomous mammals. The photos speak for themselves and if I can’t serve as a good example then I can certainly serve as warning! Leave the loris alone!

 

Read more about slow loris venom here

Crossing International Borders: The Trade of Slow Lorises (Nycticebus spp.) in Japan

By Louisa Musing

MSc Primate Conservation student 2013-2014

It was their eyes, those large, captivating eyes that first caught my attention.

© Andrew Walmsley

Untitled

The slow loris is a beautiful yet vulnerable primate. Its’ elegant, snake-like movement through the trees, mysterious nature, and unique morphology fascinated me even in the pictures, however it was their continued and often illegal exploitation that drove me to conduct research into one of their most pertinent threats.

In collaboration with Little Fireface Project (LFP) and Japan Wildlife Conservation Society (JWCS) I investigated into the previously under-studied Japanese slow loris pet trade; the magnitude of their exploitation, the legitimacy of their sale, and their care and treatment when kept as pets. I conducted: in-store and online pet shop investigations, informal interviews with pet shop owners, analysis of trade and confiscation records, and examined the conditions slow lorises are subjected to in private households through Japanese online videos. Whilst planning the details of my research in Tokyo, people kept asking me how I would react to seeing slow lorises being sold as pets, a trade which is widely recognised as violating species welfare. The answer was always the same; I knew it would be hard, but I was an animal lover through and through. I needed to help, do something useful, and be a part of protecting these creatures and their future.

Japan is renowned for its fascination with exotic wildlife and is one of the largest wildlife consumers in the world. The country has been internationally criticised for its poorly regulated wildlife law enforcement, weak penalties imposed upon law breakers, and involvement in illegal trade activities. Despite slow lorises’ internationally protected status, venomous bite, and complex captive care requirements my research confirmed their high demand as pets in Japan with 74 slow lorises observed on sale in just a two week period, and uncovered clear evidence of illegal trade through falsified permits and smuggling. I verified that the current penalties for illegal activities are weak, law enforcement is poorly regulated, and border control staff’s knowledge on species is limited. My research further authenticated the unsuitability of slow lorises as pets. Online videos revealed slow lorises frequently in human contact, overweight, and wounded. They were observed consuming foods that disregarded their natural feeding patterns, were housed in bright lighting and unnatural conditions, and were continuously seen exhibiting stress behaviours. My findings also reiterate how the general public are misinformed regarding species welfare, and are unable to comprehend the necessary requirements slow lorises need for a good standard of living. I can only emphasise the need for more stringent legislation at Japanese borders, regular monitoring of the pet trade, increased education for border control staff, particularly regarding species identification, and raising public awareness on their ecological importance in the wild and their unsuitability in private households.

Whilst these research aspects were integral to my project, I also took time to present a lecture on slow loris behaviour, ecology, conservation and protection, in Tokyo, in collaboration with JWCS, to students, professionals, conservationists, and zoo staff. We received very positive feedback and were encouraged to keep educating the Japanese public about the slow loris in an attempt to reduce demand. Finally, with the help of Professor Anna Nekaris, a new slow loris species identification guide was developed with details on all 8 species in English and Japanese to aid conservation staff, and those involved in species identification.

Needless to say, my research and experience in Japan was eye-opening and has only re-ignited my passion and drive for slow loris conservation against the injustices some members of the human race bestow upon them.

When I arrived home, I was inundated with questions about my research; was it successful, did I cope, what were the pet shops like? My answer to the latter was always the same; it wasn’t the stifling heat in those pet shops in the depths of Tokyo, the stacks of cages, or the sheer volumes of people all crowded around the piles of animals chained to their cages, it was their eyes. Their eyes said a million words, their eyes broke my heart.

A Javan slow loris for sale in a Tokyo pet shop, 2014. © Louisa Musing

 

This week is the annual Slow Loris Outreach Week and we need to remind ourselves that protecting these beautiful species starts with us, right here, right now. Every one of us must play an active role in their conservation. Send a clear message against their exploitation, inundate your social networks with conservation messages, and teach your friends and family about their story. Only through our combined efforts, be it one single person or large organisations, will the future of the slow loris be protected.

 

 

 

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

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAladygaga

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!