Super Tiny Animals Outrage: Letter to ITV

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After countless emails of concern after a recent showing of Super Tiny Animals on ITV, Emily Emmott began a petition signed by 520 individuals within a week. I used this petition to send what I hope was a kindly worded and informative letter to ITV viewer services. I await their reply. Read the full letter by clicking on this link:  SlowLorisLettertoITVViewerServices.

Viewer Services
ITV Plc, Gas Street
Birmingham
B1 2JT

Dear ITV,

On Monday the 3rd of September, you re-broadcasted a programme entitled Super Tiny Animals, which depicted a globally threatened species, the pygmy slow loris Nycticebus pygmaeus as a pet. This species is listed as Vulnerable A2CD on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and all international trade is prohibited under CITES Appendix 1 since 2007; prior to that trade was heavily restricted under CITES Appendix II. The IUCN report that the species is “heavily exploited for traditional medicine as well as for the pet trade, including international trade, at levels that are not sustainable.”  In this letter, I and 519 supporters who signed a petition within just one week of your show being aired, kindly implore you to consider the following information, which we believe your researchers should have discovered before broadcasting the show, which may have encouraged the pet trade in a highly threatened species.

Although the ‘owners’ of the loris you showed on your show claim it is legal, a simple glance at the CITES database shows that it is very likely otherwise.  The public records show that in 1985, 2 pygmy lorises were imported into the Soviet Union for ‘scientific purposes’, 2 in 1989 for a zoo, in 1991 3 more for a zoo. In 1998 and 1999, 6 and 11 pygmy slow lorises were illegally imported into Russia from Vietnam, and reported as such by the authorities. Normally such individuals are handed over to zoos, and if they were not, they would still be illegal as pets. We are aware of many other cases of illegal imports that were not reported to the authorities (e.g. reported via internet etc). As such, no loris was EVER legally imported into Russia for pets, and no animal has ever left the zoo collections to go into a pet nursery, according to the European studbook keeper for pygmy slow loris. Even if it is legal to have a pet loris in Russia, under CITES, if the parents were not legally imported, the offspring are thus ILLEGAL. We should also note, at any rate that breeding of pygmy slow loris even in the best zoos, is very low, and certainly could not succeed at a commercial scale.

This situation was highlighted further in January 2012 when BBC2 (and subsequently many other stations across Europe & Australia) broadcasted a 1-hour programme entitled Jungle Gremlins of Java. This programme had revealed to the public the illegal and cruel nature of the loris pet trade, and highlighted in particular the video that you portray as ‘cute.’ Indeed, the broadcast met with a public outcry about what could be done, that led my very small online research group, the Little Fireface Project, to become an open forum about where issues regarding all forms of illegal trade about lorises could be discussed.

We are aware that if more people know of an Endangered species’ plight this can be a positive thing. Of the 519 supporters who signed the petition, many left comments, and I have selected some below that highlight the issue. We very much hope that ITV will take action on this by one of the following ways: removing the offensive show from your i-player and no longer broadcasting it; accompany the show with conservation messages and information about the illegal nature of keeping the loris as a pet; providing information and links on your web site where people can learn more. There are no loris nurseries, so people who would want a loris pet after seeing your show would be forced to go to the black market. We would hate to see this happen.

We are grateful for your attention, happy to provide more information, and hope that you will act upon this letter, which has been made publicly available at www.nocturama.org.

Yours Sincerely,

Professor Anna Nekaris

Professor in Primate Conservation and Anthropology

Oxford Brookes University

Nocturnal Primate Research Group

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