Slow loris venom can kill humans

Field biologist and conservationist George Madani describes his near-death experience with a slow loris. This account is soon to be published as a medical case study written by Madani and Nekaris in the Journal of Venomous Animals Including Tropical Diseases. Without medical intervention, George almost certainly would have died…

As a field biologist working in Australia I’ve had my fair share of perilous creatures to contend with. Deadly snakes with venom potent enough to kill a man several times over. Bone crunching, limb tearing crocodiles lurking in billabongs and rivers of the north . Even our toilets aren’t safe with the infamous Redback spider lurking in their favourite haunt of the noble outback dunny.

So when I visited Borneo a couple of years ago I thought the greatest danger I might face would have perhaps been with one of their legendary vipers or cobras. Maybe I would end up as lunch from an elusive neck seizing clouded leopard or perhaps being trampled by a herd of startled stampeding jungle elephants. Little did I think that I would be undone by a small, cute and furry little mammal.

Having been afflicted with a desire to catch and admire most critters from a young age I met my match in Borneo by what I thought to be the most unlikely of candidates. It was with considerable excitement that I came across my first wild slow loris, which inadvertently led to too close an encounter and ultimately the teeth of this nocturnal primate sunk deeply into my finger.

Loris Bite by George Madani

George after a young Nycticebus kayan deeply bit into his finger

Following a painful and frightening adventure into anaphylaxis I had a crash course into understanding that these cute little forest gremlins pack quite the punch being one of the worlds very few venomous mammals. The photos speak for themselves and if I can’t serve as a good example then I can certainly serve as warning! Leave the loris alone!


Read more about slow loris venom here

Experts gather to tackle slow loris trade – Press Release

Sukabumi – last week over 50 people from government agencies, national and international universities, NGOs and rescue centres met in the Cikananga Wildlife Rescue Centre on Java, Indonesia, to discuss the challenges in tackling wildlife trade in Indonesia. Different from other such workshops the focus was on some of the lesser known nocturnal species with a particular emphasis on slow lorises.

Slow lorises are a group of small nocturnal primates that are particularly heavily affected by the illegal pet trade. They occur all over Southeast Asia from India and China south to Indonesia and the Philippines.  Indonesia is home to six of the eight species including the recently described Kayan slow loris.

Anna Nekaris, professor in primate conservation at Oxford Brookes University, who described the new Kayan slow loris, presented the results of her research highlighting the differences between the species. This allows workshop participants to identify the different species they encounter in their day-to-day jobs. She remarked that “the increased diversity that is recognised amongst nocturnal mammals such as the slow lorises make it paramount that law enforcement agencies are able to identify the different species. With increased species numbers it furthermore highlights the need for increased protection of these sometimes overlooked animals”.

The participants were presented with data on the trade in civets, tarsiers, slow lorises and other wildlife demonstrating the global significance of Indonesia of the trade in these species. This resulted in frank discussions about the challenges the Indonesian government faces when confronted with large scale open trade in protected species. The participant then had the opportunity to view a great number of confiscated animals in the rescue centre. Several then went on to survey the animal markets in Jakarta observing no less than 31 slow lorises offered openly for sale.

Dr Chris Shepherd, deputy director of Traffic Southeast Asia was one of the speakers, and remarked how slow loris trade is actually worsening.

At the end of the workshop it was concluded that there was a clear need for a Southeast Asian wide slow loris conservation action plan as well as an increased understanding of the forces behind the open trade in protected wildlife at more regional scales.

Prof Nekaris concluded “It is inspiring to see that the conservation crises that the faces the slow loris brought together participants from different countries and varying backgrounds to safe an animal that has previously been considered insignificant.”


Note to editors:

Slow lorises (genus Nycticebus) are a group of 8 nocturnal primates that are threatened by habitat destruction and increasingly by trade – they feature frequently in YouTube videos. Slow lorises are protected in all of the 13 range countries in which they occur and are included on Appendix I of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, precluding all international trade.


A film showing the nature of the wildlife trade in Indonesia can be seen here



International team discovers new loris species in Borneo and the Philippines

Although this news should have been released on the 14th of December, the embargo was leaked, so it seems timely that the Little Fireface Project should report on this important news now!

Discovered! New Species of Borneo’s Enigmatic Primate with a Toxic Bite

Three New Species of the Masked Slow Loris are Newly Recognized

The images above show N. menegensis and N. kayan, photographed by Chi’en Lee

An international team of scientists studying the elusive nocturnal primate the slow loris in the jungles of Borneo have discovered three new species. Published in the American Journal of Primatology, the team’s analysis of the primate’s distinctive facial fur markings revealed the existence of one entirely new species, while three species others are being officially recognized as unique.

“Technological advances have improved our knowledge about the diversity of several nocturnal mammals,” said Rachel Munds, Little Fireface Team Member from the University of Missouri Columbia. “Historically many species went unrecognized. While the number of recognized primate species has doubled in the past 25 years some nocturnal species remain hidden to science.”

The slow loris (Nycticebus) is a primate genus closely related to galagos. These primates are nocturnal and can be found across South East Asia, from Bangladesh to China to the island of Borneo. The slow loris is rare amongst primates for having a toxic bite, and is listed as Vulnerable or Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Slow lorises are recognized by their unique fur colouration on the body and face. While traits such as fur patterns are often used to distinguish between species, nocturnal species are cryptic in colouration and have less obvious external differences. The team’s research focused on the distinctive colourings of Borneo’s slow loris, whose faces have an appearance of a mask, with the eyes being covered by distinct patches and their heads having varying shapes of caps on the top.

Differences among these face masks resulted in recognition of four species of Bornean and Philippine lorises, N menagensis, N. bancanus, N. borneanus and N. kayan. Of these Nycticebus kayan is a new group unrecognised before as distinct. This new species is found in the central-east highland area of Borneo and is named for a major river flowing in its region, the Kayan.

The recognition of these new species strongly suggests that there is more diversity yet to be discovered amongst slow lorises throughout their range. Yet in Borneo and the Philippines itself, the area is threatened by human activity so the possibility that more slow loris species exist in small and fragile fragments, raising urgent questions for conservation. “The pet trade is a serious threat for slow lorises in Indonesia, and recognition of these new species raises issues regarding where to release confiscated Bornean slow lorises, as recognition by non-experts can be difficult,” says Prof Nekaris.



This study is published in the American Journal of Primatology. To request a copy contact or +44 (0) 1243 770 375


Full Citation:

XX Wiley, December 2012, DOI: xxxx




Contact the Author: The authors can be contacted via:

Dr Rachael Munds, University of Missouri press office:

Tim Wall


Dr Susan Ford, Southern Illinois University

Ron Sievers

618 | 453.2813


Prof A Nekaris, Oxford Brookes University

Matthew Butler

01865 484630



About the Journal:

The objective of the American Journal of Primatology is to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and findings among primatologists and to convey our increasing understanding of this order of animals to specialists and interested readers alike.


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