IF you’ve seen the viral video of a slow loris lifting its arms up as it gets tickled by its human, you probably thought, “Oh my, so cute! He’s loving it.” That video has since received 6.7 million views.
Sure it’s cute but the slow loris is definitely not loving it. Slow lorises raise their arms when they’re alarmed. If you’re one of those that liked it and shared it, you may have just unwittingly watched and applauded the torture of an innocent animal.
Sadly and more disturbingly, that video may have contributed to the renewed interest in keeping the slow loris as a pet. There are more videos now of slow loris pets eating rice balls and grabbing umbrellas.
The slow loris, known locally as kongkang, isn’t a pet — it’s a wild animal. slow lorises are from the genus Nycticebus which in ancient Greek means “night monkey”. In Indonesia, Slow lorises are called malu malu or “shy one” because they freeze and cover their face when spotted.
It’s the only nocturnal primate in the wild and spends most of its day sleeping curled up in a tight ball in hidden parts of trees or leaves. Although a primate, the slow loris is more closely related to the lemurs than the apes. The slow loris is a Strepsirrhine primate, which basically means wet-nosed primates.
The wide round eyes, which give it its charm and distinctive looks, help it see in the dark when it goes out looking for sap, floral nectar, fruits and arthropods to feed on. It’s mostly solitary except for families made up of a monogamous pair and offspring.
It lives in the forests of Southeast Asia and bordering areas, and there are eight known living species – Sunda slow loris (N. coucang), Pygmy slow loris (N.pygmaeus), Javan slow loris (N.javanicus), Bengal slow loris (N. bengalensis), Bornean slow loris (N.borneanus), Philippine slow loris (N. menangensis), Bangka slow loris (N. bancanus) and the Kayan River slow loris (N. kayan).
Our country has five species of slow lorises: Sunda slow loris which occurs in the Peninsula, Borneon slow loris, Bangka slow loris, Kayan River slow loris, which occurs in East Malaysia (Borneo), and a few years ago, a new species of soris was discovered in Sabah, the Philippine slow loris. Two subspecies of the Bornean slow loris were elevated to species status in 2011 (Bangka slow loris and Kayan River slow loris).
Scientists and researchers started raising concerns that with the new identification, the population of the individual species may not be as healthy as previously thought when combined as one species.
Following that, Malaysia made headlines again with news of tagging and radio-tracking of the Philippine slow loris (N.menagensis) in Sabah as part of a research by Danau Girang Field Centre led by Director, Dr Benoit Goossens.
The Danau Girang Field Centre is a research and training facility co-managed by Sabah Wildlife Department and Cardiff University. Dr Goossens, a Senior Research Associate at Cardiff University with more 15 years of experience in the field of conservation genetics, was interested to find out the population status, habitat use, diet, social organisation and behaviour of this newly identified species of the slow loris.
“It’s very difficult to give an estimate of how many slow lorises are left in the wild. To give an idea of a population estimate for the Philippine slow loris, if we take into account the density estimate around Danau Girang Field Centre and extrapolate to the whole sanctuary (about 450 sq-km), there would be between 2,295 and 4,005 individuals in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. But this estimate is to be taken with a pinch of salt,” said Goossens.
The species is listed as “Vulnerable” in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List and is threatened with extinction due to growing demand in the pet trade. Goossens expressed grave concern that it seems far too easy to get hold of a slow loris to be kept as a pet locally; he has seen many being sold openly in markets.
Labels: Kinabatangan, Sabah Wildlife