On an enjoyable road trip from Bangkok to Koh Tao island on the South West of Thailand, the highlight of the trip was not the turqouise ocean, delightful those waters were, or the pale sand beaches; the highlight was an unexpected appearannce of a Slow Loris emerging from the jungle. I won’t give the exact location of my sighting on these pages, due to the unfortunate trafficking of these elusive cherub faced, primates. My sighting was at night, when travelers had departed this unexpected sanctuary.
At first I thought a cat was bending branches infront of our parked car, though when head lamps instantly flashed on the copse of tropical rainforest, ahead, I had to double take the scene. Of long limbs a sloth like creature dangled from a head high branch and looked straight at me with its little eyes, patched with dark brown shading. Not scary, extremely cute.
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An Unexpected Surprise of Seeing a Greater slow loris
I reached for my phone and clicked a photo then fumbled to try to get the video camera working. The cute creature knew it had been spotted and in its fastest escape crawled away at glacial speed hand over fist along a branch, deeper into the under growth. With my chest heaving, I checked my phone to replay the film; it seems I had been uselessly thumb printing the wrong part of the touch screen; there was no film. Below is the only photo I captured of what I now believe was a Greater slow loris.
As one of the most endangered primates in the world, the Greater slow loris (Nycticebus coucang) is on the brink of extinction. Found in the forests of Indonesia, Vietnam, and Cambodia, these gentle creatures are nocturnal and arboreal, meaning they live in trees. They are also one of the only venomous mammals in the world, thanks to a toxin in their elbow glands that they mix with their saliva to create a deadly weapon. The Greater slow loris is a victim of the illegal pet trade, as well as habitat loss due to deforestation. NGOs and conservationists are working tirelessly to protect these animals, but much more needs to be done to save them from extinction.
The Greater slow loris is a Primate With Unique Skills
The Greater slow loris (Nycticebus coucang) is a primate closely related to lemurs, bushbabies, and tarsiers. It is the largest member of the genus Nycticebus, and is native to Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and parts of Thailand.
Greater slow lorises have a body that is covered in soft, thick fur. They have large eyes that help them to see in the dark, and a long tail that they use to balance themselves as they move through the trees. They have sharp claws that they use to climb, and to hold on to their prey.
Greater slow lorises eat a lot of different things, including insects, small mammals, and even other lorises! They use their long, sticky tongue to catch their prey, and their sharp teeth to bite it.
This bush baby looking mammal has a body length of up to 35 cm (14 in), and a tail length of up to 10 cm (4 in). It is a stocky animal with a round head, small ears, and large, round eyes. The fur is brown or reddish-brown, with a lighter-colored patch around the eyes. Their cureness, however, has led to it being sought after by traffickers.
Slow loris: The Only Venomous Mammals in the World
Most people are familiar with the notion of a venomous snake, but did you know that there are also venomous mammals? The greater slow loris (Nycticebus coucang) is one of these rare creatures. The slow loris has a poisonous bite that can be painful for humans. The poison is produced in a gland in the slow loris’ elbow. The poison is transferred to the slow loris’ teeth when it licks its elbow. When the slow loris bites, the poison is injected into the victim.
Threats to The Slow loris
Habitat loss is a major threat to greater slow lorises. They are found in primary and secondary forests in Southeast Asia, but these forests are being cleared at an alarming rate. In Indonesia and Malaysia, where much of the slower loris’ habitat is found, forest cover has decreased by more than 50% since 1985 (Sri-wan 2006).
The illegal pet trade is also a major threat to greater slow lorises. They are captured from the wild and sold as pets. Unfortunately, they do not make good pets. They are nocturnal animals and Become stressed in captivity. Many die within a year of being captured.
The combined effects of habitat loss and the illegal pet trade have resulted in a decline in the population of greater slow lorises. They are now listed as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List.
The Greater slow loris is endangered partly due to slash-and-burn agriculture and deforestation leading to habitat loss. Plus the species is hunted for the pet trade, and for medicinal purposes. They are shy animals and are very difficult to spot in the wild. However, they are sometimes seen in the markets of Indonesia, where they are sold as pets. These poor creatures are often mistreated and malnourished, and many die in captivity.
There are some things that can be done to help protect greater slow lorises. Their habitat needs to be protected and the illegal pet trade needs to be stopped. Public education is also important. People need to be aware of the threats to these animals and what they can do to help. Zoologists and conservationists of The Kukang rescue and rehabilitation centre for confiscated slow lorises is one such organization based on the ISland of Sumatra – you can visit their website here.
Unfortunately Slow Loris Are Used in Chinese Medicine
Slow lorises are used in traditional Chinese medicine which increases the threat to this rare animal. Their fur is said to be lucky and to bring good luck to those who wear it, while, their meat is believed to be a powerful aphrodisiac, and so it is often used in love potions and other traditional medicines. Their bones are also used for releieving arthritis and joint pain; plus their urine is used as a powerful insecticide, and it is also said to be good for the skin.
A great experience to see this rare and elusive creature emerge from rain forest in Thailand. One of the most interesting things about slow lorises is the way they move. They are very slow and deliberate in their movements, hence their name. This is known as brachiation, and is a form of locomotion that is often seen in primates. Brachiation is when an animal moves by swinging its arms from one tree limb to another. Lets hope further generations will be able to see this animal on the odd occassion in the wild.