Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Downfall of the Slow Loris?

You’ve all seen the videos. John talked about them in lecture today. Slow lorises might just be the cutest little primates out there. The 10 species are found in indo-China, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Unfortunately, their cuteness may be their downfall.
ABC News ran a segment on slow lorises just recently, on November 16. While studying slow lorises, a primatologist at Oxford Brookes University, Dr. Anna Nekaris, discovered something interesting. Nekaris was originally studying the little creatures because of their unique quality of having a venomous bite. The slow loris is actually the only mammal with this bite so similar to that of a snake. ABC reports:
When the animal goes into a ‘defensive posture’, it will raise its arms above its head and squeeze them tightly. This pulls oil from its armpits into its mouth...mixing it with saliva, to deliver its venomous bite. Its growl even mimics a cobra.
Although Nekaris was studying the venom, what she ended up discovering is that the populations of slow lorises are actually rapidly decreasing. All 10 species are suffering, and Nekaris attributes this issue to the Youtube phenomenon. Think of the Anthropogenic Alee Effect. Illegal pet trade has greatly reduced the populations.
The adorable lorises have become coveted pets, especially in Japan, Russia, and the Persian Gulf. On the illegal animal Asia market, Nekaris said their venomous teeth are removed with nail clippers and are sold for $25. When smuggled out of the country, they can be worth thousands.
Nakaris was surprised to say the least. She’s worried for the future of these bizarre beasts. “People don’t understand that these are illegal pets,” she said. “They think they can have one. They see it as being cute.”

For your viewing pleasure, in case you haven’t seen the videos (note: this is not encouragement to illegally purchase your own slow loris): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18-xvIjH8T4

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