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.


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