Animal Market Horrors

During monthly market surveys, the Little Fireface Project team monitors wildlife trade in some of Indonesia’s most notorious illegal markets, in the hopes that things will get better, and those breaking the law will be prosecuted. Sadly, the number of lorises we see for sale just is not decreasing. Indonesia has some of the best laws in Asia to protect their wildlife but sadly, as these photos in a public market show, they are not always enforced.

Part of our programme is thus also to work with international organisations like TRAFFIC to provide training materials so that enforcement officers can be sure they can identify the species that are being traded, so there is no doubt which are protected. Of course, the animal welfare issues of the unprotected species is also abysmal and is an issue in its own right, as the photographs of the baby monkeys show.

Please sign our petition to help end this cruel and crushing trade.

Vital Loris Research in Indonesia

Ibu Teti with Javan slow loris

Prof Nekaris and Ibu Teti at LIPI nocturnal primate facilities in 2006

Ibu Wirdateti is a member of the Little Fireface Project, and our counterpart at LIPI or the Indonesian Institute of Sciences. Teti is a mammal researcher in the Zoological Museum Bogor and Indonesian Institute of Sciences, with a focus on nocturnal primates (slow lorises and tarsiers). She has worked on slow lorises (Nycticebus sp.) since 1997  and tarsiers since 2002. Her Masters degree was on genetics and distribution of slow lorises in Indonesia. Apart from genetics, she has been working on distribution and ecology of these primates as well as breeding of slow lorises and tarsiers in captivity. Her research has taken her to West Java (Nycticebus javanicus), South and East Sumatra (N. coucang and Tarsius bancanus), Central and South Kalimantan (N. menagensis and T. bancanus) and then Sulawesi (Tarsius tarsier) to carry out surveys of these little-known primates. Read her research here! Genetic diversity of the slow loris

The problem with ‘Slow loris eating rice’

In the last week, a new viral slow loris video has penetrated the internet. An undeniably adorable, wide-eyed slow loris eating a ball of sticky rice, sometimes one grain at a time. Oh my gosh – it is soooo cute!! Or is it?

Well, yes! Slow lorises are beautiful to the eyes of many cultures. They are elegant creatures whose grasping hands are adapted to hold tightly to branches, and snatch important insect prey. Those huge eyes allow them to move in the forest during the darkest nights.

The cruelty of loris pets just begins to unfold. The loris is in a brightly lit room that really hurts its eyes. It goes into super slow mode. Wild lorises can ZOOM 8 km a night on the horizontal (e.g. not counting all the runs they make up and down vines, lianes, trunks and branches). When they are terrified they sit and look wide-eyed in the horrified manner of that cutey in the video. That is why so many of the commentators pick up on his fear and write, “but why does he look so scared?”

Lorises have a fabulously specialised diet, which is why we hardly ever see them in zoos, and why so many die even under specialised care. They eat insects full of secondary compounds, flower nectar, and tree gum. Rice will make them very very ill indeed! A favourite quote of mine about the loris is…’In captivity they will eat fruit, but so will a lion eat rice, or a hungry man his boots, but not with much gusto.”

The video features the Vulnerable CITES Appendix I-listed greater slow loris, Nycticebus coucang, found only in a limited range in Malaysia, Sumatra, Southern Thailand and Singapore. This group probably comprises at least three species or subspecies, meaning their conservation threat will even be greater. This also is one of the rarest types of of lorises found in zoos, meaning the animal in the video is almost without doubt from illegal trade. Even in countries where it is legal to have primate pets, the animal must have come from a legal import, and the parents must also have been legal; otherwise it is ILLEGAL to keep the animal. Even if the animal is bred at a pet shop, the parents must have been legally imported!!  It is almost certain that this little loris is therefore illegal, and YouTube is violating laws by showing illegal activity – the possession of an illegal CITES I listed animal as a pet.

Please don’t ‘like’ or ‘thumbs up’ this video and encourage this cruel trade. The suffering of animals for the trade is many not including:

1. being ripped from the forest, shoved in bags and plastic crates with no food and water

2. babies dying on the mother’s belly in this process

3. pregnant mothers miscarrying

4. most have their teeth cut out to avoid the venomous bite and most die due to secondary infection

5.most cannot stand the terrible market conditions and die before being sold

6. the rest nearly die during illegal transit

7. those that make it as a pet die due to poor diet and ill kept conditions, and live just 1-2 years rather than the 20 years they would live in the wild

LEAVE LORIS IN THE FOREST

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.

Reducing Stress in Captive Lorises

One of my MSc Primate Conservation students Andy Gray at Oxford Brookes describes her research project helping care for slow lorises without teeth! Andy is kindly funded by UFAW. We also would like to thank Exotic Nutrition for donating their ‘jungle jelly’ to the lorises in her project!!

“I am currently a volunteer researcher at IAR’s Ciapus Primate Centre studying to get my Master’s degree from Oxford Brookes University. In my 3 months here, I have been conducting a captive study to examine which types of enrichment might reduce stress for the slow lorises living here. In particular, I have used tree gums, as gouging large holes in trees for gum has been reported often in the wild. Because many of the lorises at the centre have their teeth brutally clipped or pulled in the illegal trade, gouging these holes is quite difficult for them in captivity. My goal was to provide a successful way for the lorises to eat tree gums while still performing some “gouging” behaviours through soft materials, like banana leaves. I also wanted this to be challenging and entertaining enrichment for the lorises with teeth as well.

It has been incredibly rewarding to watch the lorises enjoy the enrichment that the keepers, vets, and I designed. We have given them pine cones with mashed banana, branches with gum inside holes wrapped with banana leaf, and frozen gum and kalliandra flowers inside large bundles of grass (I suspect they liked this last one the most!). I have been very busy collecting as many data as I can for this study. The keepers joke that I have become a kukang (loris) because I collect data until 5am. It is incredible to be alone in the nighttime watching the lorises. I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything like it before.
Erwin eating gum enrichment

Beyond my enrichment study, I have also conducted an experiment regarding boldness and shyness of the lorises. I have focused on lorises who are candidates for release, and have used novel objects to determine how willing they are to approach and explore new things. I hope that this will be beneficial for the centre when judging which lorises are the best candidates for release, because studies with other species have shown that animals survive better post-release if they are either bold or shy (depending on the species). No one has studied this before in lorises, so it is unknown whether or not they are more likely to survive if they are bold or shy. I am very excited for the long-term research possibilities for the centre, even after I leave.

This project has been incredibly rewarding. It feels good to be contributing to both the captive care and the reintroduction project here at IAR Indonesia. However, the root of the problem is the illegal trade. In the future, I hope I can also be involved in efforts to combat this, as it is so important for the survival of the species and individual welfare. “

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.

The Campaign Begins!

Posted on 09/02/2012

Last night Dr Nekaris gave an amazing talk on loris folklore at Klub Gutenberg in London.  With stories and poetry, legends and legacies, the slow loris captured everyone’s imagination.

The postcard campaign also got off to a great start with over 100 signatures collected.  Thanks to everyone who came along and showed their support.

Slow Lorises on YouTube – Letter to IPPL

 

Posted on 25/08/2011

YouTube Video Encourages Illegal Pet Trade in Slow Lorises

K.A.I. Nekaris, A.L. Doughty, Oxford Brookes University, School of Social Sciences and Law, Nocturnal Primate Research Group, Oxford OX3 0BP U.K.

Hill's Greater Slow Loris for Sale in Medan

In the last year two videos showing the Vulnerable pygmy slow loris (Nycticebus pygmaeus) as a pet have gone viral, receiving together nearly 9 million views.  Both videos show the animals in unnatural daylight conditions.  The first is of an obese slow loris being tickled, whereas the second shows a highly stressed obese loris with a characteristic head wound desperate to grasp a tiny umbrella.  Viewers are also allowed to record whether they ‘like or dislike’ the videos.. Combined, as of late March 2011, the two videos received 3100 likes vs only 1200 dislikes.  With more than 9000 comments left on both videos, we were able to categorise them into three major categories: writer endorses pet trade /wants one; writer informs public against having one; writer identifies the species/compares it to film/other.  Through analysis of the first 100 comments, we found that for both videos, nearly 60% of comments were from those who wanted one as a pet or were attracted to the idea of having one, whereas only 5-10% informed the viewers of the illegality of keeping lorises as pets.

Policing the content of videos uploaded to YouTube has been a key problem throughout the company’s rapid evolution.  YouTube has previously stated that it is not their responsibility to control video content uploaded to their site, however they do take copyright infringement seriously.  Other than copyright infringement, content control is maintained through the complaints and notifications from users (Sandoval 2007).  YouTube’s terms and conditions state this it is YouTube’s decision to remove any content that has been flagged as illegal.  Despite 100’s of comments pointing out the cruelty in the video and the illegality of keeping slow lorises as pets, YouTube has done nothing to remove the offensive videos.

 

Slow lorises do not breed well in captivity, and most that end up as pets will have been smuggled through the black market from the wild.  More often than not, lorises in the trade die due to starvation, dehydration or infection caused through the common practice of removing their teeth with pliers or toe nail clippers, Listed on Appendix 1 of CITES, international trade in slow lorises is prohibited.  It is also illegal to buy the offspring of illegally imported parents.  Social Networking Sites such as YouTube have become an integrated part of personal identity.  We feel that the popularity of these videos could be hazardous to slow loris conservation.  Although the video may also bring their plight to millions who had never heard of the animals before, we strongly urge YouTube to remove the videos.