Cu Li Tuesday: Houdini Cu Li!!

by Stephanie Poindexter

 

A brave effort from tree climbing guide Nhat!

A brave effort from tree climbing guide Nhat!

As I mentioned in my last Cu Li Tuesday update here in at the EPRC in Viet Nam, we regularly follow three individuals. Due to the wonderful canopy cover and the unforgiving terrain it is normal for us not to see a loris some nights, despite having a strong signal. This week, however, after receiving a stagnant signal and not finding our third loris, Cu Li Ba, we decided to mount a search and recover mission.

The first night we spent 3 hours combing through a patch of trees with our head torches looking for those two floating red fireflies, as I sometimes call the loris eyes, but had no luck getting a visual. It was the next night when Cu Li Ba’s signal was in exactly the same spot that I became a little concerned. After spending another 3 hours staring into the same tree-patch, I decided it was time to get a better look. It took a little convincing, but after repeating a few times that “this is very important”, one of the trackers, Nhat agreed to shimmy up the tree where the signal was strongest and check around for Cu Li Ba.

I pretended not to notice, but the other keepers were definitely teasing him because he was the guinea pig being sent to climb the tree! But it was for the good of the loris and he was ultimately happy to do it. As the trees in this area were seldom climbed, this adventure garnered a small audience as they circled the tree in case he fell but whether it really was for his safety or just for their entertainment I still don’t know. After a gruelling 20-minute ascent, he reached the top and searched in vain for our dear Cu Li. Once he finally descended, I didn’t know whether to laugh or to hide, as he hopped out of the tree and bent over to pick up a tiny little black radio collar.

If I could turn red, I would have been as bright as an apple. It was pretty embarrassing for a few minutes, but soon I was just impressed and relieved the Cu Li Ba had managed to slip her collar off and was hopefully doing well.

Though we can no longer regularly follow Cu Li Ba, I check for her every night and you will be happy to know that I saw her just yesterday enjoying a huge insect. From now on whenever we mention Cu Li Ba, we call her Houdini Cu Li.

Food Based Conservation

My time at Loris Land is almost over. In April I will move from this magical land and go to a rescue centre for two months to finish my studies. It occurred to me that I haven’t even told you all about my research yet! Well, grab a glass (bottle) of wine and get ready for a juicy insight into a loris crazed researcher’s brain. I apologise in advance if I offend anyone with my thoughts.

This research aims to increase the welfare of lorises in rescue centres like this one!

This research aims to increase the welfare of lorises in rescue centres like this one!

I have been working in animal nutrition for a while now, and in this modern day and age with all of our “ethics” and lab rules … HOW do we know if we are feeding the right diet to an animal. You feed it … it doesn’t die. Does that mean the diet is good? You feed it, it is alive and breeding and performs natural behaviours? Is that satisfactory? What about giving them the nutrients that they need, but in a presentation that is not at all akin to the wild, such as giving only pellets or a porridge. These are all questions which really interest me and I would like to be able to explore. Nutrition impacts every single facet of an animal’s life because they have adapted to exploit a specific group of foods in the wild.

My personal motto is that captive diets should be based on wild diets. It isn’t always possible to reproduce a wild diet in captivity though so we have to make do with what we have. To study this further, I had the idea of looking exactly at what lorises eat in the wild and then calculating their nutrient intake and translating this into a captive diet. I want to look at every.single.nutrient. Lorises are actually a great model animal for this since their captive diets are currently … so so. Plus, with the sheer amount of lorises in rescue centres, creating a good but cheap diet would be amazing for these poor little guys! A special diet for those without teeth would also be a good addition.

Releasing one of our lorises after a health check

Releasing one of our lorises after a health check

SO one issue with these kind of studies is that you can’t necessarily measure the digestive parameters of your wild animals to use as a “golden standard” when you do diet trials. Armed with a bucket of gum the amazing LFP trackers and I have been collecting over months, dried nectar and insects I will be giving some captive lorises a diet which reflects the proportions and quantities of wild lorises. I’ll then be able to measure how much fibre they can digest, how long it takes the diet to pass through them, see how they behave and see how much food they ingest. I hope to be able to do some fancy microbiology and see the state of their gut microbes as well! Now I make a pretty big assumption that these results will be similar to the wild lorises, which is a whole other thing. With all this info, I will then be able to have diet trials which have the necessary nutrients and measure the SAME things again. The diet which most closely resembles the wild type *should* be the ideal captive diet.

The team during the latest health checks

The team during the latest health checks. Little Ena was as calm as could be!

I have lots of ambitions and I really want my studies to help the lorises in any capacity. It would be great if this diet also helps the success of reintroductions but that isn’t for now. I need to finish this study first before I can move on to other things. I can’t believe this adventure is almost over when it feels like I just got my hands into it. I was called Princess on my first day here, and I have remained a princess throughout, yet ever so slightly more rugged now (and beardy).

I look forward to sharing my results with you all!! More from the rescue centre adventures soon 🙂

Francis Cabana

PhD Student and LFP Research Coordinator