I´m Imanol and I´m from Bilbao. I have come to LFP as part of my master´s degree – I study Primatology in Girona. I am particularly interested in prosocial behaviours of primates and have been analysing this topic throughout many species. Now I have travelled accross the world to study this first-hand in the field, specifically in slow lorises. I will stay in Indonesia for 4 months, although now I have already hit the halfway mark! So for my first blog I would like to talk a little bit about my emotional journey of coming to the project.
Hai readers. My name is Ida Mustikaningrum. I come from Yogyakarta city. I study at Gadjah Mada University. Now I have lived in Cipaganti village, Cisurupan, West Java. I stay in green house of little fireface project (LFP) and usually people in here call yayasan muka geni. Little fireface project is a foundation that concern in conservation of slow lorises. In the LFP, there are 18 lorises that observed and the lorises have collared. Many activities in here are focused in lorises, such as observation, round, sleep site, photo shift, and capture. Each activity has the characteristics of each. Observation, we must observe the behaviour of lorises during five until six hours, but we can write the behaviour in the data sheet is every five minutes. Round, likes observation, but we can see the behaviour of lorises during 15 minutes and every shift of round we must looking for all the lorises. Sleep site, we must search the sleep site of every lorises and marking with GPS if we have found the sleep site. Photoshift, hunting photos of the lorises and hope get a lot of photos. Capture, we must capture the lorises and measure the morfometri and the weight of lorises, or we can put or take the collare. LFP give me a lot of learn especially about lorises because I become volunteer in here.
Additionally, In the Cipaganti I have done my project about diversity of bats in Cipaganti, Garut, West Java to get my bachelor title. I start my project around one month ago. My project area is at the homerange of lorises. I use mist net to capture the bats, so I put the mist net in homerange of lorises. Bats is a nocturnal animal, like lorises. So I go to field at the night.
I’m Sapphire and I have come to LFP as part of my BSc in Zoology at Cardiff University. Almost two months into my placement year and I am loving it here. I enjoy the culture, the people, the family that the staff and volunteers have become and obviously the wildlife! I will be studying positions of loris bridges alongside helping out with the behavioural observations throughout the night and helping to teach children English in a school in Garut. Some days are busy busy busy, and this is one of them.
When you first wake up you hear the mosque prayers, the motorbikes zooming past the house, the chickens squawking and the hustle and bustle of this small village you’ve made your home. As you make your way to the kitchen, four cats surround you for attention (and most likely food) and after a good cup of tea (in my case at least) you are able to start your day. Continue reading A Sapphire for our Slow Lorises!
As part of my internship at The Littlefire Face Project I am working on the new agroforestry project. The project aims to work with local farmers to improve The long term quality of the soil – to benefit the productivity of the farm and to help the forests. By farmers having their own nursery they can supply themselves with good quality seeds, rather than waiting to be given them by the government or having to buy lower quality seeds from the mass market.
But why plant in a nursery?
A nursery has these objectives: – To give every chance to seeds or cuttings to grow quickly and in the best conditions – To produce more plants in a small area ready to be replanted in the forest – Speeds up the process of the plants developing their root systems and aerial organs (true leaves, stems…)
Young plants are, by nature, fragile and delicate; the nursery is therefore installed in a warm, sunny place, sheltered from winds and if possible near the forest. Compost is used as it has all of the nutrients, bacteria and fungi that the plants need – making a tree nursery the best place for plants to grow.
The multiple benefits of the nursery: – Favourable conditions for growth – Provides better monitoring of disease and pests, and facilitates better care of the seedlings. The young shoots are pampered in the tree nursery so grow better and faster than if they had started to grow directly in plots in the forest! – Good quality conditions means farmers have the tools to successfully grow any trees, plants, or crops that they would like
This is only the beginning of our project, but the benefits will continue to grow. Farmers will increase the diversity of their crops, have more streams of income, and so better financial security. For nature, agroforestry is good for the climate as trees help to control carbon levels, water quality is improved, and more trees means more biodiversity!
- Marion Jourdain, Intern
Oxford, United Kingdom
Slow lorises are cute but venomous nocturnal primates found from India to the Philippines; the nine currently recognised species are all threatened with extinction largely due to illegal trade. This week, researchers from Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, United Kingdom and the Japan Wildlife Conservation Society, Tokyo, Japan, have published two major studies documenting Japan’s role in the illegal pet trade of slow lorises, and also provide a strong scientific basis that the typical way in which these pets are kept violates international standards of animal welfare, constituting animal cruelty. The studies will appear online in the wake of a new major documentary regarding slow loris ecology and conservation to be aired on Japan’s NHK this month.
Slow lorises as pets first came to the general public’s attention in 2009 when a video of a slow loris being tickled went viral. More than 100 videos of pet slow lorises are now available on social networking sites at any one time. Arguably the most popular slow loris individual is Kinako, a Hiller’s slow loris from Sumatra. The ‘Slow Loris Channel’ featuring this animal gained popularity in September 2012 when the video ‘slow loris eating a riceball’ went viral. As of 21st January 2016, the channel had 44,547 subscribers and 18,454,348 views. All slow lorises are protected by national laws in their range countries, making catching and selling them illegal, and all slow lorises are listed on Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). So where do the slow lorises in these videos come from? And are these videos really showing cute animals enjoying their lives as pets? The research reveals that the answer to these questions presents a real threat to slow loris conservation.
The first of the two studies, entitled Crossing international borders: the trade of slow lorises Nycticebus spp. as pets in Japan was published in Asian Primates Journal, a journal of the IUCN Primates Specialist Group. During the two month investigation, the authors found 114 slow lorises in 93 Japanese online videos, and discovered 74 slow lorises for sale in 20 Japanese pet shops, both in store and on-line. Six threatened species, including the Critically Endangered Javan slow loris, were for sale for between USD 3,290 and USD 8,650, some of which were displayed with falsified CITES permits. Analysis of CITES trade data revealed Japan to be the most significant importer of slow lorises; a total of 633 individuals were imported for commercial purposes between 1985 and 2013 with the last of these imports in 1999. In terms of the magnitude of illegal trade, confiscation data from Japan’s Ministry of Finance (Customs) revealed that 400 slow lorises were confiscated entering Japan between 2000 and 2013. Current penalties imposed on wildlife smugglers in Japan are low in comparison to the lucrative market, and the country’s national legislation and CITES regulation needs to be better enforced. As breeding of slow lorises in captivity is extremely difficult, it is highly probable that most animals arriving in private homes are wild born.
Kirie Suzuki, Secretary General of the Japan Wildlife Conservation Society, and co-author of the study stated that “The international community is working in cooperation to curtail illegal trade of wildlife; Japan should fulfil its responsibilities”
The second study entitled Is tickling torture? Assessing welfare towards slow lorises (Nycticebus spp.) within Web 2.0 videos appears open access in the international journal Folia Primatologica. Nekaris and colleagues examined 100 online videos, nearly 1/3 of which were uploaded from Japan, to investigate whether or not the ‘five freedoms’ of animal welfare were violated in the videos. These freedoms are used by animal welfare societies worldwide to assess if animals are kept in appropriate captive conditions and include freedom: 1) from hunger, thirst, and malnutrition, 2) from disease and injury, 3) from physical forms of discomfort due to inadequate thermal, resting or other environmental conditions 4) from fear, distress, and negative psychological states, and 5) to carry out normal behaviours. The authors showed that every video violated at least one freedom, with all five negative conditions being present in nearly 1/3rd of the analysed videos. This included the famous ‘riceball’ video, where the slow loris was fed a poor diet, showed signs of ill health indicated by obesity, was kept in bright light, showed signs of stress, and was kept in extremely unnatural conditions. Furthermore, the public was more likely to give ‘thumbs up’ to videos that showed stressed lorises kept in bright light. The pervasiveness of this imagery may cause an unknowing public to perceive that such conditions are natural for these animals, as evidenced by the many positive comments about the cuteness of the video, as well as the refusal of online social networking sites to remove the videos despite them being flagged as animal cruelty.
Professor Anna Nekaris, Director of the Little Fireface Project and Professor of Primate Conservation at Oxford Brookes University, stated that “These videos are a double-edged sword, bringing awareness of the plight of the slow loris to potentially millions of viewers, but at the same time, fuelling an illegal international pet trade.” The challenges of the work were pointed out by Louisa Musing of TRAFFIC International and a co-author of both studies who stated “The demand for pet slow lorises in Japan is persistent and is playing a major part in fuelling their international illegal trade. Wildlife smugglers are taking advantage of the weak law enforcement that is currently in place as well as the lucrative market where individual slow lorises are being sold for thousands of USD.”
The problem of slow loris trade is not restricted to Japan alone, and the studies published this week are only an example of the tremendous and pervasive trade in these rare primates. Dr Mary Blair, a loris researcher at the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History who was not involved in the research, said “This important work illustrates for the first time the extensive role that Japanese consumers play in driving the illicit international trade in endangered slow lorises as exotic pets. Unfortunately, this problem is pervasive in many other countries outside of the native loris range and documenting the problem with rigorous data – as these researchers have done in the case of Japan – is quite challenging.”
As I mentioned in my last Cu Li Tuesday update here in at the EPRC in Viet Nam, we regularly follow three individuals. Due to the wonderful canopy cover and the unforgiving terrain it is normal for us not to see a loris some nights, despite having a strong signal. This week, however, after receiving a stagnant signal and not finding our third loris, Cu Li Ba, we decided to mount a search and recover mission.
The first night we spent 3 hours combing through a patch of trees with our head torches looking for those two floating red fireflies, as I sometimes call the loris eyes, but had no luck getting a visual. It was the next night when Cu Li Ba’s signal was in exactly the same spot that I became a little concerned. After spending another 3 hours staring into the same tree-patch, I decided it was time to get a better look. It took a little convincing, but after repeating a few times that “this is very important”, one of the trackers, Nhat agreed to shimmy up the tree where the signal was strongest and check around for Cu Li Ba.
I pretended not to notice, but the other keepers were definitely teasing him because he was the guinea pig being sent to climb the tree! But it was for the good of the loris and he was ultimately happy to do it. As the trees in this area were seldom climbed, this adventure garnered a small audience as they circled the tree in case he fell but whether it really was for his safety or just for their entertainment I still don’t know. After a gruelling 20-minute ascent, he reached the top and searched in vain for our dear Cu Li. Once he finally descended, I didn’t know whether to laugh or to hide, as he hopped out of the tree and bent over to pick up a tiny little black radio collar.
If I could turn red, I would have been as bright as an apple. It was pretty embarrassing for a few minutes, but soon I was just impressed and relieved the Cu Li Ba had managed to slip her collar off and was hopefully doing well.
Though we can no longer regularly follow Cu Li Ba, I check for her every night and you will be happy to know that I saw her just yesterday enjoying a huge insect. From now on whenever we mention Cu Li Ba, we call her Houdini Cu Li.
My time at Loris Land is almost over. In April I will move from this magical land and go to a rescue centre for two months to finish my studies. It occurred to me that I haven’t even told you all about my research yet! Well, grab a glass (bottle) of wine and get ready for a juicy insight into a loris crazed researcher’s brain. I apologise in advance if I offend anyone with my thoughts.
I have been working in animal nutrition for a while now, and in this modern day and age with all of our “ethics” and lab rules … HOW do we know if we are feeding the right diet to an animal. You feed it … it doesn’t die. Does that mean the diet is good? You feed it, it is alive and breeding and performs natural behaviours? Is that satisfactory? What about giving them the nutrients that they need, but in a presentation that is not at all akin to the wild, such as giving only pellets or a porridge. These are all questions which really interest me and I would like to be able to explore. Nutrition impacts every single facet of an animal’s life because they have adapted to exploit a specific group of foods in the wild.
My personal motto is that captive diets should be based on wild diets. It isn’t always possible to reproduce a wild diet in captivity though so we have to make do with what we have. To study this further, I had the idea of looking exactly at what lorises eat in the wild and then calculating their nutrient intake and translating this into a captive diet. I want to look at every.single.nutrient. Lorises are actually a great model animal for this since their captive diets are currently … so so. Plus, with the sheer amount of lorises in rescue centres, creating a good but cheap diet would be amazing for these poor little guys! A special diet for those without teeth would also be a good addition.
SO one issue with these kind of studies is that you can’t necessarily measure the digestive parameters of your wild animals to use as a “golden standard” when you do diet trials. Armed with a bucket of gum the amazing LFP trackers and I have been collecting over months, dried nectar and insects I will be giving some captive lorises a diet which reflects the proportions and quantities of wild lorises. I’ll then be able to measure how much fibre they can digest, how long it takes the diet to pass through them, see how they behave and see how much food they ingest. I hope to be able to do some fancy microbiology and see the state of their gut microbes as well! Now I make a pretty big assumption that these results will be similar to the wild lorises, which is a whole other thing. With all this info, I will then be able to have diet trials which have the necessary nutrients and measure the SAME things again. The diet which most closely resembles the wild type *should* be the ideal captive diet.
I have lots of ambitions and I really want my studies to help the lorises in any capacity. It would be great if this diet also helps the success of reintroductions but that isn’t for now. I need to finish this study first before I can move on to other things. I can’t believe this adventure is almost over when it feels like I just got my hands into it. I was called Princess on my first day here, and I have remained a princess throughout, yet ever so slightly more rugged now (and beardy).
I look forward to sharing my results with you all!! More from the rescue centre adventures soon 🙂
PhD Student and LFP Research Coordinator
With the recent onset of the wet season I’ve noticed a few changes in our lorises behaviour’. They seem to groom more, which is understandable after the torrential downpours! I’ve also seen a lot of exciting baby activity, they just seem to be popping up all over the place. Consequently I am looking into infant behaviour and dispersal in Javan Slow Lorises. To start off I’ve been making family trees, social webs and interaction charts finding out whose who and can now see what a tight knit Loris Community we have here in West Java. Despite the large number of lorises we follow and the regular un-collared lorises we find throughout most territories, all of our animals are linked in some way, which is great fun to study.
We have everything from mothers and fathers, sons and daughters to new boyfriends and girlfriends amongst our focal animals and due to the long study period we can follow them throughout different life stages. We are watching the progress of newborns through their dispersal and have a front row seat as they eventually find territories and mates of their own. For example one of our slow lorises, Lucu, is the daughter of Charlie, a loris with one of the highest elevated territories we have. Lucu has now dispersed and traveled all the way down right next to the village and is now settling in with boyfriend Pak B. We have other individuals we’ve followed from birth such as Dali who is still a sub-adult and as he grows up we are already able to see him interacting with his mum’s newest baby and it’ll be exciting to track his dispersing journey. Alomah (son of One Eye) seems to be in the process of dispersing and is often found waking up with Azka or One-Eye. Maya and Fernando, young lorises themselves, have recently been seen foraging together and Fernando was seen with a very small, and very fluffy, baby so we’ll be keeping a close eye on this new family!
Despite having long been considered as solitary it appears that these mysterious primates have quite the social life and as this project progresses I’m hoping to be able to find out about it in more detail – what age they weaned, what age do they begin to disperse, how far do they disperse, what are the barriers – if any, do they disperse with a new mate or meet a new one there? So many questions, so little time!
by Anna Nekaris
I am asked over and over again why slow loris videos are cruel – do they really show animal cruelty? It is hard to understand the behaviour and nuances of an animal that one has seen possibly for the first time on a video like ‘slow loris eating riceball,’ ‘slow loris being tickled’ or ‘slow loris goes out for a walk.’ But as a person who has studied these animals for more than 20 years – who knows them like Cesar Milan knows his dogs or Monty Roberts knows his horses – I can emphatically tell you that these videos are not only cruel – they break my heart.
So here it is – a list of what any would-be slow loris conservationist needs to know, and ammunition to apply to the comments sections of YouTube videos…WHY loris videos are cruel. The information will hopefully be published in a manuscript that I am preparing with my colleagues Asier Gil Vasquez and Louisa Musing, and are based on the five freedoms of animal welfare. Watch this space for the upcoming paper!
Table 1. Violations of the five freedoms in slow loris vidoes.
|Condition||Description of the condition||Why its wrong|
|Human contact||The individual was either; touched, stroked, manipulated, handled or held by a human.
|Exotic animals are generally unfamiliar with human contact and forced proximity or handling can cause severe stress or discomfort (Morgan and Tromborg 2007).|
|Day light||The individual was observed in daylight or artificial daylight conditions.||Lorises are nocturnal primates and being subjected to day light conditions, without reversing their light cycle or providing adequate night lighting, severely neglects their behavioural needs and impacts their health (Fitch -Synder & Schulze 2001, Nekaris & Bearder 2011).|
|Signs of stress||The individual showed signs of stress: defence threats, crouching, folded mouth, freezing, stereotypic behaviour, attacking (i.e. biting), scratching, scream or chitter vocalisations (Fitch-Snyder and Schulze 2001).||While stress can be considered a necessary requirement in predator avoidance, chronic stress can cause stereotypic and abnormal behaviours, and severely implicate health and psychological well-being (Morgan and Tromborg).|
|Unnatural conditions||Natural substrate or vegetation were not evident throughout the duration of each video
|Slow lorises are predominantly forest dwelling primates that move by slow climbing and bridging, and have home ranges between 2 and 20 hectares (Nekaris and Bearder 2011). Being housed in small cage enclosures, subjected to an environment which contains no substrate or vegetation does not meet basic slow loris behavioural needs (Fitch-Synder and Schulze 2001, Fitch-Synder 2008).|
|Isolation||Additional slow loris individuals (irrespective of species) were not present throughout the duration of each video.||Primates are social animals (Cowlishaw and Dunbar 2000) and suffer greatly when they are deprived of social interaction or stimuli (Mallapur and Choudhury 2003, Honess and Marin 2006)|
Table 2: images from illegal slow loris videos showing violations of five freedoms of animal welfare – even the ‘good’ images look pretty cruel to me who has seen the lorises’ beauty in its wild habitat! Knowing these animals were stolen from the wild makes it all a bit worse.
When a student applies for a conservation grant for their research projects, one of the questions always asked is: How will this project ensure conservation action continues after said project is finished? Or something to that effect. As a lowly student, it is very difficult to imagine yourself in a position to forever change the area where you plan on working, but it is what we all want. We all want to leave our mark.
I am very happy to say that through team effort, the Little Fireface Project has left its mark (on top of the conservation action and contributions to science and animal husbandry). Last week we have begun building a Muslim school in the village which is free of tuition. Any family will be able to send their children there, regardless of their financial status. When school isn’t in session, LFP’s Nature Club will be able to use the room to teach the village children all about nature. Our field station coordinator Sharon has been doing amazing things with the Club and now, ideas seem to have no limit! What I find truly amazing, is that the entire village is chipping in and building the school by hand. This is very humbling and something you’d never see in a western city … then again you wouldn’t see wild lorises there either!
Part of our research looks into the feeding ecology of the Javan slow loris in a very disturbed habitat. Plant diversity is very low yet they seem to thrive here. After we have finished identifying what plant species are used for what purposes, and their abundance, we will be able to specifically choose what plant species are the MOST important to the lorises. We will then buy/collect seeds and grow saplings with the help of the Nature Club children. They will see the entire life cycle of the plant from seeds to mature plant (I loved doing that in grade school biology class, hopefully they will too!). Children will then donate these saplings to farmers to plant between their plots to increase useable habitat for the lorises.
This would never have been possible without the help of the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and Colombus Zoo. Thanks to them and a solid LFP team effort (and a whole village of lovely people with hidden talents), we are able to leave our mark in loris land. Forever teaching children about nature and cultivating a sense of pride. After all, they are the guardians of some very unique and charismatic wildlife.