Jungle Gremlins of….Francis!

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by Francis Cabana, PhD Student and Research Coordinator, Little Fireface Project

I was working in a zoo with pygmy slow lorises when I saw the documentary Jungle Gremlins of Java for the first time. I knew about the biology of slow lorises but didn’t really know how bad their situation really was. I was moved and made it a point to always tell people the heavy implications involved with sharing the tickling slow loris video.

Now, two years after the film first aired, and that I am making slow loris conservation and welfare my PhD thesis subject, I exaggeratedly think it is one of the most important problems in the world. I am not so sure if I would be in the same position had this documentary not been made.

Thanks to this documentary, which has educated hundreds of thousands of people about the plight of the slow loris, the Little Fireface Project has picked up many supporters. Thanks to these enthusiasts, LFP is able to conduct important research, conservation and education activities in Southeast Asia. I am based in Java and study wild javan slow lorises to understand exactly what and how much they eat and why. I will collect samples of every food item that they consume and analyse their nutrition content to then create a nutrient intake which hopefully I can transform into nutrient recommendations for captive lorises. Not only will these recommendations impact zoos but more importantly rescue and rehabilitation centres. LFP supports my decision to take things one step further and create the ideal diet for captive lorises. For western zoos and Asian centres, they must be appropriate, healthy and affordable. Current diets at rescue centres are mostly fruit. If they are lucky enough to receive lorises that still have all of their teeth, then the high fruit diet will slowly create dental issues requiring some teeth to be removed. Can’t blame them though, centres have no funding and no access to the scientific literature. It is a good thing I have a big mouth then, isn’t it? I am very passionate about my research and working with organisations to promote conservation and animal welfare, all of these values are clearly reflected in the Jungle Gremlins of Java.

Hopefully thanks to LFP and my research, we will print out posters and little manuals and send them to all of the centres we can find that detail how to make healthy diets.

With LFP’s research, I will also be able to come up with a list of most important plants for lorises. The children in our nature club will grow these selected plants from seeds and give the saplings to farmers to plant around their plots. This will increase useable habitat and hopefully bridge currently used areas. The saplings will be grown in our newly built Nature Club House and sapling nursery! One thing I miss the most from home is gardening, so I’m definitely excited!

Maybe I owe this entire experience to the BBC documentary that inspired me and slowly led me to the dark path of nocturnal research and rescue centre welfare. One thing is for sure, if Paignton Zoo’s Matt Webb didn’t say “Can you look at our loris diets? It needs a lot of work” to me, I wouldn’t have gotten here as quickly as I did. Maybe he saw the documentary too?

If you would like to help LFP and I with our research through donations, we are in desperate need of the following – adopting one of our lorises for Christmas will help in their purchase!=

  • AAA and AA batteries
  • Gum Arabic (can be purchased from Amazon)
  • Whatman Number 1 filter paper wicks
  • microcapillary tubes

Love and Lorises,

Francis Cabana

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