International team discovers new loris species in Borneo and the Philippines

Although this news should have been released on the 14th of December, the embargo was leaked, so it seems timely that the Little Fireface Project should report on this important news now!

Discovered! New Species of Borneo’s Enigmatic Primate with a Toxic Bite

Three New Species of the Masked Slow Loris are Newly Recognized

The images above show N. menegensis and N. kayan, photographed by Chi’en Lee

An international team of scientists studying the elusive nocturnal primate the slow loris in the jungles of Borneo have discovered three new species. Published in the American Journal of Primatology, the team’s analysis of the primate’s distinctive facial fur markings revealed the existence of one entirely new species, while three species others are being officially recognized as unique.

“Technological advances have improved our knowledge about the diversity of several nocturnal mammals,” said Rachel Munds, Little Fireface Team Member from the University of Missouri Columbia. “Historically many species went unrecognized. While the number of recognized primate species has doubled in the past 25 years some nocturnal species remain hidden to science.”

The slow loris (Nycticebus) is a primate genus closely related to galagos. These primates are nocturnal and can be found across South East Asia, from Bangladesh to China to the island of Borneo. The slow loris is rare amongst primates for having a toxic bite, and is listed as Vulnerable or Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Slow lorises are recognized by their unique fur colouration on the body and face. While traits such as fur patterns are often used to distinguish between species, nocturnal species are cryptic in colouration and have less obvious external differences. The team’s research focused on the distinctive colourings of Borneo’s slow loris, whose faces have an appearance of a mask, with the eyes being covered by distinct patches and their heads having varying shapes of caps on the top.

Differences among these face masks resulted in recognition of four species of Bornean and Philippine lorises, N menagensis, N. bancanus, N. borneanus and N. kayan. Of these Nycticebus kayan is a new group unrecognised before as distinct. This new species is found in the central-east highland area of Borneo and is named for a major river flowing in its region, the Kayan.

The recognition of these new species strongly suggests that there is more diversity yet to be discovered amongst slow lorises throughout their range. Yet in Borneo and the Philippines itself, the area is threatened by human activity so the possibility that more slow loris species exist in small and fragile fragments, raising urgent questions for conservation. “The pet trade is a serious threat for slow lorises in Indonesia, and recognition of these new species raises issues regarding where to release confiscated Bornean slow lorises, as recognition by non-experts can be difficult,” says Prof Nekaris.



This study is published in the American Journal of Primatology. To request a copy contact or +44 (0) 1243 770 375


Full Citation:

XX Wiley, December 2012, DOI: xxxx




Contact the Author: The authors can be contacted via:

Dr Rachael Munds, University of Missouri press office:

Tim Wall


Dr Susan Ford, Southern Illinois University

Ron Sievers

618 | 453.2813


Prof A Nekaris, Oxford Brookes University

Matthew Butler

01865 484630



About the Journal:

The objective of the American Journal of Primatology is to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and findings among primatologists and to convey our increasing understanding of this order of animals to specialists and interested readers alike.


Journal URL:


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