Today Monday the 14th of September marks the launch of our 4th annual Slow Loris Outreach Week (SLOW – slender lorises of course can join us too!!). I have studied lorises since the early 1990s, and at that time, very few people in western countries had ever heard of a loris. In their native ranges, slow lorises were already known for a variety of reasons, be them romantic, mystical, or tragic. For example, seeing or hearing a loris can bring you luck – good or bad; lorises are believed by some to wait at the gates of the afterlife; these strong slow animals are also believed to cure over 100 diseases, leading to their near extinction in some Asian countries. For more than 20 years, slow lorises in particular have been seen in the pet trade throughout Asia, causing increasing destruction to their wild numbers. It was in 2009, however, that this trade got global awareness when a video of an illegally smuggled and cruelly kept pygmy slow loris went viral, bringing the possibility of having this internationally protected species as a pet to millions all over the world.
Throughout this time, the Little Fireface Project and its Director Prof Anna Nekaris have been doing all they can to learn about these animals. From the very basics, to how many species are there and where do they occur in the wild, to the simple aspects – what do they eat? what are their families like? – to the complex – why are slow lorises the only venomous primates? We also have been publishing scientific findings to show exactly why the lorises seen in YouTube videos are illegal to own or inhumanely treated, and also provide our data and recommendations to zoos and rescue centres all around the world, so they can keep these animals well in captivity. Indeed, many of these organisations kindly fund our vital work.
But what can you do?? Here are ten steps you can do to help save the slow loris!
1. Leave one comment a day on a loris pet video kindly requesting that the uploader remove it, and explaining why the trade is illegal and cruel.
2. FLAG one video a day as animal cruelty – although now some sites allow this option, we have yet to see a single loris video removed by the likes of Facebook or YouTube. In fact, only conservation material has been taken down when it was copyright of a company like BBC, even if only a few seconds were used to help save the slow loris!!!
3. Spread the awareness: download our Facebook headers, our outreach images for Instagram, tweet about lorises; if you are a teacher in any context – even a yoga or a cooking class – take 30 seconds to spread the word to your audience. Buy a t-shirt with the conservation message and wear it and answer questions to anyone who asks!
4. This week, try to raise £10 for loris conservation! This can be a car boot sale, selling unwanted items on Ebay, bake sale, proceeds from a yoga class, charity car wash, run a marathon for loris conservation – the list goes on! If 1000 people were able to raise £10, we could run slow loris field projects for an entire year!
6. Visit your local zoo and see a slow loris for yourself, and ask the zoo to do something special for their lorises this week. Even more, if you work in the zoo, use this week to emphasise the importance of slow loris conservation.
7. Be creative – make a counter YouTube video, showing why slow lorises are not pets, draw a slow loris comic or colouring page that we can use with children in loris range countries, help us with new t-shirt designs to increase awareness!
8. Write to the ambassador of a loris range country that you visited and express your distaste for the illegal wildlife trade of all species.
10. Volunteer for Little Fireface Project at our field site in Java or write to us with any skill you can offer to help!