To attempt a reintroduction of a Loris is extremely tricky.
First, you need an animal that is suitable for release. Unfortunately, most of the lorises rescue centres receive were destined for the pet trade and have their teeth removed. Without teeth, few lorises would survive wild.
They need their sharp canine teeth to defend themselves and their lower ‘tooth comb’ to gouge gum producing trees, which provides one of their main food sources. A good candidate for release would have to be in good health and have all their teeth if they were to survive in the wild.
Second, you need to know what lorises need to survive, what trees they feed from and sleep in. Without access to the right food, or suitable hiding places to rest in the day, a released Loris won’t survive long.
Third, you need to find an area for the release that’s perfect for lorises, but has very few lorises in it. If a Loris is released into the territory of a wild Loris, either there’ll be a showdown – which isn’t great for either of them – or one will be forced to disperse. When performing a reintroduction, it’s important that the released animal doesn’t cause any negative effects on the existing wild population.
Taking all of these requirements into account, the right combination of factors doesn’t often fall into place. But I think this time, everything has fallen into place.
Our candidate Loris for release, Kia, was confiscated near Bandung, close to the Little Fireface Project research station. She was brought here by the authorities, and then sent to Cikananga Wildlife Rescue Centre. Thankfully, she still had all her teeth and was in good health. She has now been at the Rescue Centre for 3 months where she received excellent care, and hopefully has retained all of her wild instincts. Because Kia was caught near our study area, we can apply what we know about the habitat needs of the lorises we study at Cipaganti to her.
With decades of data collected by Professor Anna Nekaris and the ongoing research at Cipaganti, the Little Fireface Project has a huge wealth of knowledge regarding habitat suitability, and with the recent work of PhD candidate Francis Cabana, we now know m ore about the nutritional needs of lorises than ever before.
With the help of our amazing trackers, we’ve found a release site that has all the key tree species needed to support lorises. It’s about 2 hours away from the research station, and getting there involves some serious hiking, but it’s perfect for our release. So far on our night surveys we haven’t seen any other lorises, which is a good sign.
The next steps are to get all of the paper work in order, visiting Kia at the Rescue Centre and make sure she’s in good health, start our socialisation work with local villagers, build a soft release cage tha t Kia can spend some time in before her actual release, and then monitor her throughout the release process. There’s still a lot of work to do, but with the great team here at LFP and the help of the local people near the release site, we should be able to help Kia back to where she belongs, in the wild.