It's slow loris awareness week (16-22 September) and been this side of the world - also home to this small primate; its hard to ignore the problems they face here. These are one of the most rare and endangered primates and they are deeply under threat.
WHY ARE SLOW LORIS IN TROUBLE
The illegal trade is rife here in southeast Asia; Chatuchak Market in Bangkok sell these primates and Jakarta's notorious wildlife market sell many illegal species including the loris. These are protected and it is against the law to trade/sell these creatures. But this happens in broad daylight? The problem most endangered species face in many parts of the world, is that the illegal wildlife trade generates a lot of money which makes it easy to pay the right people to turn a blind eye to the illegal activities. And most market venders receive notification when there will be a police raid. Corruption is one of the biggest problems in Asia which protects some of the most dangerous cartels in wildlife trafficking as well as sex trafficking.
The pet-prop trade has grown rapidly since 2012, and during 2013 the numbers had risen from sightings of 1 loris in January to 10-15 loris per day, by the end of the year been paraded around Patong. These lorises are smuggled into Phuket for the tourist trade and are used for holidaymakers who want photographs with cute animals but of course, these are wild-caught and often drugged or mutilated in order to be safe to handle. There is no welfare monitoring system operating amongst illegal species so the animals are often neglected, and once they serve their use and are too old; they are usually kept in small cages till they die or are discarded.
SLOW LORIS AS A PET
The slow lorises are also sold but they don't get on well with the domestic environment and usually they are given up by their owners when they reach adulthood to rescue centres. Videos that appear online showing lorises eating with spoons or been tickled really don't help the situation- making the slow lorises appear cute driving up the demand for them. They are quite vicious primates and usually their teeth are removed before selling them on the market so they don't bite.
This practice is done in open streets- and leaves the animals defenceless to return to its natural habitat in the wild. Without their teeth they are unable to groom themselves properly, they can't inject their venom into prey or eat their most vital food resource—gum which is gouged from trees with the chisel-like toothcomb. Rescue centres receive some of these animals once confiscated from the pet-prop industry or pet trade but due to disease, physical damage or psychological damage they can't be rehabilitated back into the wild.
ILLEGAL MEDICINAL TRADE
The slow loris is heavily impacted by illegal trade for medicines- as they are thought to have over 100 uses and are often smoked alive to retain their properties. In Cambodia, for example, women consume parts of the loris to help heal following childbirth and in the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.
SO WHAT IS BEEN DONE
When it comes to illegal wildlife trading in Asia, the risks are minimal and the profits are high. At present the worst punishment that an illegal trader would receive is a small fine and their animals are confiscated, but they are free to return to the streets the following week with a different collection of illegal species.
I've been working with Freeland Foundation in Asia and they work hard to stop the illegal wildlife trade, watch this snippet of a video to see the kind of operation they do in Thailand to protect these species from exploitation and extinction. You can support the work of Freeland Foundation who partner directly with the wildlife justice division. Donate.
THINGS YOU CAN DO?
Next time you're on your travels through southeast Asia- don't pet the lorises or hand over money to the pet-prop industry. This way you are helping a great deal by not buying into this illegal trade and funding the succession of further business. If we can cut demand for lorises in the tourist trade then there is no profitable business for the wildlife traffickers who bring the primates to the tourist destinations. You're effectively helping the demise of slow loris illegal trade and securing a better future for this endangered species.
Thank you for reading.