Photo props – the unknown loris threat

A few months back I met Mark Mason, who has been working relentlessly to build a new set of enclosures to house slow lorises confiscated from the Thai photo prop trade on Phuket island. A former MSc student of mine, Petra Osterberg, working with the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project, has been doing the same, and in fact, a large proportion of LFP adoption funds went to fund a cage she built for confiscated lorises.

But where are all these lorises coming from? And why is it so bad that  they are being carried around the beaches of Thailand? Does it hurt them to have some innocent photos taken? Isn’t it a nice experience for a tourist to hold a cute animal?

You think we should have learned from our experiences in the past – the beaches of Spain for instance, where chimpanzees were exploited for a similar trade. No matter how cute the wild animal is, it is that…a wild animal. These poor lorises are ripped from their nocturnal forest homes, dazzled by the very loud noises of the bustling streets. Even many people do not like to be out in the town of Patong at night, with bright lights, loud music and even louder tourists. For a slow loris, whose quiet life in the dark forest, it must be horrific, and it can be seen on the faces of these animals, as camera flash after camera flash sees them recoil in typical fear postures. Lorises too need to hold branches to feel secure, and holding on to a person, while dressed in a clown’s costume, is not security – it is no wonder they grasp for the slender neck of a beer bottle when it is offered.

Lorises naturally look passive and ‘cute’ when terrified. They do not necessarily need to be drugged, though some are. But most do have their teeth cut out. These teeth are vital for grooming and gouging gum, their most important food source, so these lorises cannot be returned to the wild. On top of that, most cannot survive for more than a few months in captivity on a diet of fruit and paraded in such stressful conditions, so need to be replaced with another wild loris.  So the lorises that Mark and Petra are rescuing are in a halfway house – we don’t know where they should go. But we do know that every time a tourist takes a picture with a slow loris laughs and holds it with their friends, they encourage this cruel trade. So PLEASE do not support the photo prop trade.

Take a moment to see that these lorises can have a better life. Thanks to Mark and Petra for their work in giving some of them a second chance. These photos are by Mark Mason.


New Videos to Counteract YouTube Horrors – Slow Loris

For many of us, slow lorises are cute. You can put them in a pile of garbage and they still look just that!! CUTE! So it is no wonder that a tortured overweight loris on a dirty pile of sheets essentially being tortured still looks, well, cute (according to some 17 million viewers at any rate)…

For non-experts, who cannot read the expressions of fear in the animals’ faces when they watch videos of pet lorises, who cannot tell how much bright light hurts their eyes, who cannot see how starving they are so they eat bananas and rice rather than their beloved gum and insects, who cannot see how desperate they are for a branch so they grab on to an umbrella, they are still that – CUTE. For us here at the Little Fireface Project, we see the demise of a beloved species for a senseless human gain.

To counteract this, we are introducing a series of videos of these gorgeous animals as they should be. With our rare access to footage of animals in the wild, we hope you can see just how fast the loris can be! How much the move! How many branches they need! How giant their pupils should be. How lovely their fur should look. That is why we film in red and infrared light, so the loris can behave naturally, not terrified by white lights. We hope you can see, as we have done, the real loris, and love them for what they really are.

Loris Awareness Week Coming Soon!

In about one month’s time, on 17th September, we will launch Loris Awareness Week! Before this time you will see many exciting additions to the web site, chances for you to show your support for loris conservation, and exciting new developments in our slow loris research and conservation activities. The week will culminate in Prof Anna Nekaris giving a public community lecture at the Cornerstone Theatre in Didcot near Oxford. Information will be available soon!

To mark the activities leading up this event, we have made our first ever project video, highlighting not only the plight of the loris, but the some of the activities that we are doing to help the loris. We will be launching some other videos throughout the month about loris behaviour, ecology and conservation.

Law Enforcement Training Works

Old news is good news! This press release from our colleagues at Emerging Conservation Leaders shows how training can lead to enforcement!


Pattaya, Thailand (March 15, 2012)– Immediately following a Thai law enforcement wildlife trade workshop, two wildlife traders were arrested for participating in the illegal trade and exploitation of the protected slow loris.  Under the direction of FREELAND Foundation law enforcement trainers, the training concentrated on mentoring 12 participants in managing wildlife crime investigations through the use of intelligence-led policing.  Participants received instruction on investigation techniques applicable to wildlife crime, including electronic and foot surveillance, with both classroom and practical exercises.  In addition, a biologist from the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders (EWCL) initiative provided information on slow loris biology, species identification, and care of confiscated animals.

Slow lorises are nocturnal, arboreal primates ranging in forests from Northern India to the Philippines. Four of the five species of slow lorises are listed as Vulnerable, and the Javan slow loris (Nycticebus javanicus) is listed as Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.  All five slow loris species are threatened by over-harvesting for the illegal pet and traditional medicine trades, and they are the most commonly encountered protected primate in wildlife markets across Southeast Asia. Trade in protected wildlife in Southeast Asia involves millions of animals annually, with Thailand recognized as a major international hub for the illegal wildlife trade.  In Thailand, the illegal pet trade is located in transportation and tourist hubs, such as Phuket, Bangkok, and Pattaya.

The coastal city of Pattaya – Thailand’s “Sin City” – is located two hours southeast of Bangkok.  Two thirds of all international travelers to Thailand visit Pattaya, attracting illegal wildlife dealers.  The city’s tourist hot spot is Walking Street, a half-mile strip of neon where sex, drugs, and other illicit goods are openly offered for sale after sundown.  On Walking Street, a network of Thai women carries slow lorises and sells photograph opportunities to tourists for USD$3.  The terrified slow lorises cling to their handlers, torn from their forest habitats and thrust into a bewildering chaos of noise and city lights.  In addition to chronic stress and poor care, most lorises in the pet trade have their front teeth removed to prevent bites.  Traders use pliers or nail clippers to remove the teeth without the use of anesthetics or antibiotics.  The international demand for slow lorises is partially fueled by viral YouTube videos showing slow lorises being “tickled” by their owners.  In fact, the animals are exhibiting a defensive behavior caused by stress.  Slow lorises make poor pets for many reasons beyond the illegality of owning one.  They frequently scent mark with strong smelling urine, have complicated social needs, and have a diverse diet that is difficult to reproduce in captivity.  In addition, slow lorises are believed to be the world’s only venomous primate, with a toxic bite that can result in death.

In Pattaya, the twelve trained officers designed and executed an operation with techniques and equipment provided by the FREELAND Foundation.  The operation resulted in the arrest of two slow loris traders, who make a substantial profit by selling photograph opportunities with the animals to tourist.  Interrogation of the suspects provided valuable information detailing the process by which the suspects obtain the endangered animals.  In continuing operations, officers will use this information to target other traders in the network.  The two slow lorises were identified as Bengal slow lorises (Nycticebus bengalensis) by the officers and biologist, and the animals were confiscated and taken to a government wildlife center.

The training was funded by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and FREELAND Foundation.  IFAW and WWF also support the EWCL program, which brings together up and coming leaders in the wildlife conservation field for capacity building and intense training in campaign development and skills, including implementation of a two-year group international wildlife conservation campaign.


Contact Information:

Brandon Speeg

White Oak Conservation Center


Slow Loris at the Forefront of Conservation Campaigns

Posted on 18/03/2012

Our beautiful little firefaces are chosen to highlight two major conservation campaigns.

From the TRAFFIC SE ASIA’S web site:  A YouTube sensation and a counterfeit cure for HIV/AIDS are amoung the starts of a campaign by the Body Shop West Malaysia and TRAFFIC Southeast Asia calling for urgent action to stop illegal wildlife trade.

The Slow Loris, one of the 25 most endangered primates in the world, shot to fame after various videos of the animal’s cute antics on YouTube went viral.

A public enamoured by its cute and cuddly appearance is fuelling the illegal trade with little realization that Slow Loris infants are often stolen from their mothers to cater for the clamour for the adorable pet.  The mothers are often killed or sold separately – either way leaving the young on their own with little hope of survival.

The Slow Loris and its story will front the ‘Where’s My Mama? 2.0@ campaign by the Body Shop and TRAFFIC that aims ti raise awareness amoung consumers about the impact their chosices have on nature.

The Slow Loris is also hightlighted in EAZA IUCN/SSC’s Southest Asia campaign to save biodiversity.