Jungle Gremlins of….Francis!

by Francis Cabana, PhD Student and Research Coordinator, Little Fireface Project

I was working in a zoo with pygmy slow lorises when I saw the documentary Jungle Gremlins of Java for the first time. I knew about the biology of slow lorises but didn’t really know how bad their situation really was. I was moved and made it a point to always tell people the heavy implications involved with sharing the tickling slow loris video.

Now, two years after the film first aired, and that I am making slow loris conservation and welfare my PhD thesis subject, I exaggeratedly think it is one of the most important problems in the world. I am not so sure if I would be in the same position had this documentary not been made.

Thanks to this documentary, which has educated hundreds of thousands of people about the plight of the slow loris, the Little Fireface Project has picked up many supporters. Thanks to these enthusiasts, LFP is able to conduct important research, conservation and education activities in Southeast Asia. I am based in Java and study wild javan slow lorises to understand exactly what and how much they eat and why. I will collect samples of every food item that they consume and analyse their nutrition content to then create a nutrient intake which hopefully I can transform into nutrient recommendations for captive lorises. Not only will these recommendations impact zoos but more importantly rescue and rehabilitation centres. LFP supports my decision to take things one step further and create the ideal diet for captive lorises. For western zoos and Asian centres, they must be appropriate, healthy and affordable. Current diets at rescue centres are mostly fruit. If they are lucky enough to receive lorises that still have all of their teeth, then the high fruit diet will slowly create dental issues requiring some teeth to be removed. Can’t blame them though, centres have no funding and no access to the scientific literature. It is a good thing I have a big mouth then, isn’t it? I am very passionate about my research and working with organisations to promote conservation and animal welfare, all of these values are clearly reflected in the Jungle Gremlins of Java.

Hopefully thanks to LFP and my research, we will print out posters and little manuals and send them to all of the centres we can find that detail how to make healthy diets.

With LFP’s research, I will also be able to come up with a list of most important plants for lorises. The children in our nature club will grow these selected plants from seeds and give the saplings to farmers to plant around their plots. This will increase useable habitat and hopefully bridge currently used areas. The saplings will be grown in our newly built Nature Club House and sapling nursery! One thing I miss the most from home is gardening, so I’m definitely excited!

Maybe I owe this entire experience to the BBC documentary that inspired me and slowly led me to the dark path of nocturnal research and rescue centre welfare. One thing is for sure, if Paignton Zoo’s Matt Webb didn’t say “Can you look at our loris diets? It needs a lot of work” to me, I wouldn’t have gotten here as quickly as I did. Maybe he saw the documentary too?

If you would like to help LFP and I with our research through donations, we are in desperate need of the following – adopting one of our lorises for Christmas will help in their purchase!=

  • AAA and AA batteries
  • Gum Arabic (can be purchased from Amazon)
  • Whatman Number 1 filter paper wicks
  • microcapillary tubes

Love and Lorises,

Francis Cabana

The journey to save Java’s Jungle Gremlins

By Anna Nekaris

The slow loris of Java is one of the most distinct of all of Asia’s lorises. Its large eyes are surrounded by deep and dark forks that stretch down to the tips of its cheeks, and meet at the crown of its head to form a long stripe down its back. These beautiful stripes are so characteristic that it is no wonder that in 2003, after its initial discovery in the 18th century, that Javan slow lorises were confirmed as a distinct species.

I always knew that the Javan slow loris was beautiful. I knew also that many researchers encountered them in the pet trade. At the same time, I also knew that all of Asia’s lorises needed to be studied, counted in the wild, and even identified as species. Since the early 1990s, I had focussed on the slow lorises smaller cousins – the slender lorises. But the call to work on the larger slow loirs was great and I soon found myself journeying to study these remarkable creatures throughout SE Asia – from India to China…to Thailand to Singapore to Malaysia…to Sumatra, to Borneo and Vietnam…so many problems to identify – medicinal trade, bushmeat, black magic, photo props and pets…the lorises of Asia seemed to be exploited for just about everything…

With every colleague that travelled to Java and witnessed the loris’ plight there, the cry from that particular place became louder. Where were the wild lorises? So many in markets but none in forests…and worse yet, those that were rescued inevitably had their teeth cut out…so in 2006 I ventured to Java for the first time to see the illegal wildlife trade there and to help start the first major rescue centre for Indonesia’s slow lorises. In simply measuring these lorises, we affirmed that Javan slow lorises were indeed a distinct species, and found evidence for two new species as well.

This was the start of intensive research on Asia’s slow loris. There was just so much to know – and that included radio tracking them in Cambodia with Carly Star, mapping their distribution in Borneo, measuring every museum specimen I could to work out where they should occur in the wild and what species we would find there, studying their wild ecology in Northeast India with Nabajit Das, and finally, sending Javan slow lorises back to the wild for the first time with radio tracking with Richard Moore.  Despite our knowledge of other lorises, however, it was not enough…and our reintroduced lorises and those awaiting their fight in rescue centres were dying…

So in 2010, we started our wild studies of Javan slow lorises. In 2011, we attracted the attention of the BBC who decided to make a film about our research – the Jungle Gremlins of Java. This film served several remarkable purposes. From 2009 onwards, the world got to know slow lorises through a series of viral videos that were cute at first glance but revealed the tip of the iceberg of a cruel and illegal pet trade. It had been hard to convince the viewing pubic why it was cruel to keep nocturnal animals awake in the day; tree dwelling animals with no branch to touch; exudate specialists made obese and diabetic on a diet of sugar rich fruit; social primates kept alone and apart from their own kind….the list goes on…

Jungle Gremlins of Java changed that – the story, developed by award winning director Stephen Gooder, and championed by Icon Film’s Harry Marshall, was able to convey my own quest to research and conserve these amazing primates, but to tell it to an audience that was apt to care, but needed to know the facts in a thoughtful way. So many people who loved lorises because they were cute now loved them because they were amazing and realised that these special rare primates belonged in the wild.

The trade has not stopped. The YouTube videos go on. People still want one as a pet…and sadly the teeth of slow loris’ are still being ripped out in the hope that they will not bite their owners with their unique venom. Jungle Gremlins of Java has made the rounds now in more than 52 countries, but has only aired once back in January 2012 here in the UK. We hope that the many new people introduced to slow lorises from those cute but cruel videos will get a chance to see the truth behind their story and help support the Little Fireface Project in the their efforts to save them.


Jungle Gremlins of Java Wins Royal Television Society Award!

Our beloved gremlins have done it again! We are so happy that the hugely prestigious panel at the Royal Television Society were able to see the merits of slow loris ecology and conservation, as Jungle Gremlins of Java has won the Award for Best Natural History Programme at this year’s Royal Television Society Awards, West of England. Beating the hugely eminent Attenborough`s Ark: A Natural World Special and The Dark: Nature`s Nightmare World, slow lorises have at last triumphed.
The programme was produced by Icon Films for BBC Natural World. It was directed by Steve Gooder and edited by Rupert Troskie with music by William Goodchild. The programme’s presenter was Dr Anna Nekaris.
For full details of the programme, please see HERE.

Tickling slow loris: The Truth gets 20000 views!

The truth behind illegal YouTube videos through images of startling market scenes in Java has now been seen by 20000 more viewers, and sparked a controversial discussion about the ethics of the illegal wildlife trade on YouTube. You can watch the video here and please keep spreading this important message!

See also these links that discuss its impact:

How a creature so cute can be so close to extinction

Tickling slow loris – the truth

How humans impact ecology


Des Gremlins Venimeux!

Our beautiful firefaces have now touched the hearts of France and Switzerland! This is for them!
La Description:
Le docteur Anna Nekaris, une des rares spécialistes dans le monde, enquête dans les jungles de Java sur le loris, une espèce de lémurien au venin capable de tuer. Elle tente de résoudre l’énigme de sa morsure toxique.
Merci beaucoup!!
Merci pour vos commentaires sincères concernant la conservation des loris lents. Ce site Web est en anglais, mais j’espère que vous reviendrez pour en apprendre davantage au sujet de notre recherche en Java, et que vous vous inscrire à notre newsletter. Nous avons actuellement sont d’entreprendre l’étude premier champ de loris lents de Java sauvages, et aussi d’étudier les réfugiés du commerce illégal d’espèces sauvages dans un centre de sauvetage en Java pour comprendre leur venin. Nous publions régulièrement des mises à jour ici. Vous pouvez nous envoyer un courriel à littlefireface@gmail.com.

“Anna & the Gremlins” Coming Soon to Animal Planet USA

North American viewers won’t have long to wait now to see the amazing behaviour of the slow loris loris as well as its conservation plight. The 50-minute version of the Jungle Gremlins of Java, to be called Anna and the Gremlins, was announced this week, and will be part of Animal Planet’s new series, Frontier Earth. “Frontier Earth with Dave Salmoni” on Animal Planet is a natural history series, where viewers embark on a journey to the front lines of major ecosystems, unfolding the plights of the world’s most enigmatic animals.

Read more: http://www.poptower.com/frontier-earth-with-dave-salmoni.htm#ixzz1qcofvFrE

International Wildlife Film Festival Winner!!

Who would have thought that our little lorises scooped up not one but three prizes at last weekend’s International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula, Montana? Not only did Jungle Gremlins of Java win overall MERITS for outstanding advocacy and animal behaviour, but also was accoladed in the Best of Category for Environmental and for Point of View! When we consider that the Little Firefaces were up against the charismatic David Attenborough, crocodiles, fossil hominins and the overall festival winner, the tiger, we must feel proud. We must also feel proud that that same winner – the co-Director of best-of-festival Broken Tail, who won the day, was also the director of our very own Jungle Gremlins of Java, Dr Steve Gooder.

Bristol Success! YouTube Links

Posted on 04/03/2012

Thanks so much for the nearly 90 people who turned out to our loris extravaganza in Bristol on Thursday! We meet so many passionate followers, got great ideas for conservation, and recharged our batteries to keep going.  It is amazing the power of the negative to bring us down, so the power of the positive to keep us up must be very strong indeed and I was so heartened to see you all enjoying the loris posters, and for such a wonderful  heartfelt discussion during the roundtable.

Many thanks to Vincent Nijman from TRAFFIC, Brook Aldrich from Wild Futures, and Christopher Schwitzer from the Bristol Zoo  for their participation in the round table.  Please see the links for more information about their organisations.  We will be hosting another fun event this summer at the Bristol Zoo, when they stay open late night! Keep your eyes here!

More news, to follow, but do see our education link for downloads of the bookmarks that were handed out.  Also see the latest videos on which we suggest you leave helpful comments about the illegal nature of the pet trade.

  1. “Slow loris served in a bowl”
  2. “relaxing slow loris
  3. “Funny Lemur scratching Arms up boy! ”

Jungle Gremlins of Java – What Next?

Posted on 26/01/2012

Thank you for the overwhelming support for the slow loris and your positive comments to Jungle Gremlins of Java.  Please keep posting your comments to the site, to Facebook (The Little Fireface Project) and to Twitter (@littlefireface or @queenfireface).  We will assemble your responses as a well-reasoned and careful letter to the Indonesian government to show our concern for the loris as an initial step.

If you can support the Little Fireface Project, you can help fund law enforcement training initiatives, market surveys, education of local people to get them to find alternatives to hunting for pets, wild studies of lorises and care of rehabilitated individuals.  Please email us and join our Facebook forum for discussions.


Guy Weston on 26/01/2012 at 19:58 said

Fascinating programme.  It’s disturbing that the police park right next to the market stall selling the illegal lorises but do nothing.  Urgent need to stop habitat destruction too especially in a country like Indonesia with its rate of population growth.

Julia Woodruff on 26/01/2012 at 20:03 said

The Natural World film was an amazing insight into the Slow Loris – what an incredible animal they are! It was shocking to see these animals being captured for the pet trade and handled in such a brutal way.  These amazing  wild animals belong in the wild.

Laura Cooper on 26/01/2012 at 22:24 said

I would like to comment on the program and the plight of not just the Slow Loris but also the other poor creatures and the horrific pet markets that you exposed.  I sincerely hope that the countries involved listen and do what they must know is the right thing.  The images were horrific, heart wrenching, sickening, appalling…. I could go on and still not express how deeply this program affected both myself and my partner.  At the start we commented how beautiful Java looked and how much we would both like to visit but by the end we both agreed that a country that allowed such despicable treatment of animals would be the last place we would ever go.  I know our sentiments are shared across many countries and by many millions of people, this trade blackens your countries reputation do something now os that you can become a country everyone is talking about for the RIGHT reasons, a country that saved their Jungle Gremlin instead of torturing and eradicating it.


Joanne Orth on 27/01/2012 at 20:12 said

It is so sadf to think that people can treat animals this way.  The Slow Loris is not just beautiful but it has qualities that no other Primate has.  For reasons like this together with difficulties in breeding and decreasing numbers would suggest this animal needs all the protection/research it can get.  This knowledge could then be filtered down into Governments, villagers, schools not only local to the Slow Loris but all over the world which would discourage loss of habitat and pet trade but would encourage secure parks and protection where this animal can live in peace.  We must protect vulnerable animals like this.  My 6 year old daughter saw your programme and she said to me ‘we shouldn’t be removing their teeth or keeping them as pets, it’s a wild animal’ and needs to be left alone.  Now if my 6 year old daughter can see this, then surely other people can too.


Sandra Jenson on 01/02/2012 at 21:07 said

I would like to urge the Indonesian government to set the standard for policing of illegal trade of these animals and more: to educate their population about this extraordinary animal so they begin to care for its welfare rather than abusing it horrifically.  I was so shocked to see the police car parked outside the pet trade market in Dr. Nekaris’ documentary.  How can they expect tourism to flourish when such abuses are taking place in their country?  I will be spreading the information far and wide so people think twice about visiting Indonesia until they make a substantial change in what is happening to these endangered animals, and, no doubt, many others.

BBC Breakfast

Posted on 25/01/2012

Anna Nekaris was chatting to Sian Williams and Bill Turnbull on BBC Breakfast this morning about her love of the slow loris and what it is about this little nocturnal primate that keeps her returning to the jungles of Indonesia.

Remember to tune in to BBC2 Natural World tonight at 8pm for the exciting premier of the ‘Jungle Gremlins of Java


Clara Clark on 25/01/2012 at 21:12 said

An excellent documentary, highlighting many issues still to be resolved.  Congratulations on an extremely informative programme and well presented.  To all of those who watched the you tube film on these endangered species, put your energy into actually doing some good to help endangered species instead of wasting your time watching sad people film these animals for laughs.  To the people who were filming this creature for you tube for your own smug benefit, shame on you.

Luiza Lobo on 26/01/2012 at 10:32 said

An excellent documentary which conveyed well the plight of the slow lorises who are not “teddy bears” but real living creatures who feel pain when their front teeth are torn out and when they are separated from their family or kept in cages in hot dry conditions.  We should all try and support initiatives which Dr Nekaris is spearheading and promote admiring these creatures in their natural habitat.  It may well be that those who took the U-tube film did not mean any harm but the reality is that that film is a real threat to these animals.  These animals are no more meant to be pets!  Massive congratulations to Dr Anna and her team.