A cuddly-looking primate, which is native to parts of South and Southeast Asia, the slow loris looks like a living doll. You may have seen videos of the cute pet slow loris being scratched under its arms and apparently loving it. It probably made you want one all of your own. A slow loris resembles something between a kitten, a monkey and a teddy bear. They are also very slow (hence the name) and docile. The perfect pet, it would seem.
But besides having a painful bite, and saliva known to cause sometimes severe allergic reactions in humans, the slow loris is not a suitable pet. Some sources even refer to their bite as “toxic”. Lorises rarely breed in captivity (the last captive birth in the US was 11 years ago) and have an unpleasant odor. Their docile behavior is attributed to a defense mechanism – it’s how they act when they come in contact with predators.
Trade in slow lorises is also illegal. All five species of slow loris are classified as endangered or vulnerable, mainly due to the illegal wildlife trade and habitat destruction. Between 30% and 90% of internationally traded slow lorises die during the process. Sellers also cut or pull out their teeth so they can’t bite, a painful process which results in bleeding, infection and often death (up to 95% rescued from markets die of dental infections or other complications). Since the slow loris is nocturnal, many owners are asleep when their exotic pet needs care.
Another threat to the slow loris is the use of its body parts in traditional medicine and other superstitious rituals.
Not so cute after all, right?
Even conservationist efforts can backfire. From BBC News:
Well-meaning groups rescue lorises and rarely follow proper guidelines when releasing them back to the wild. That means that the wrong species of loris has found itself in many a new place throughout Asia, if they have survived the traumatising practice of hard release to the wild in the first place.
–Professor Anna Nekaris, Oxford Brookes University, UK
With the discovery of three new species of slow loris in Borneo, they’ve already been put on the IUCN list of threatened species.
Read more about the new discoveries and the slow loris in general in National Geographic and Asian Scientist. Also check out these video reports from National Geographic and ABC News on the cruel illegal pet trade of the slow loris.