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The Slow Loris to Cute to Live?

Updated: Mar 20, 2019

What has eyes so big they look as though they were animated by Disney? A stare so inviting its hypnotic? A body so fluffy denying one’s self a cuddle would be a cruel and unusual self-inflicted punishment? What is so darling a creature the sight of it sends the brains cute receptors spiralling? Why the Slow Loris of course.

But Beware the Loris!
Slow Lloris (Nycticebus Bengalensis)

Beware the Loris!

As precious as the slow loris is, you’d do well not to be fooled. These wide-eyed wonders are hiding a lethal secret, VENOM! Yes, the slow loris is the world’s only venomous primate, a bite from which at best will turn your coochie-coochie cooing into a scream and at worst will leave you pushing up daisies.

The Slow loris (Nycticebus bengalensis) which has been recorded in four of the 20 dzongkhags of Bhutan, have rounded heads, pinched snouts, large doe like eyes and a rather distinctive colour patternation. Their trunks are elongated and interestingly their limbs are almost equal in length. So flexile are their torso's they’re able to twist, bend and extend with ease, a useful adaptation when latching on to nearby branches. Their palms and toes have a firm pincer like grip, and their pupils which are capable of extreme dilation allow them to hunt with pinpoint accuracy in the darkness of night.

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It may come as a surprise, but some zoologists believe this endangered Asian primate evolved to mimic Cobra’s. However, when you watch them move you can see why. It’s quite disconcerting but the slow loris can undulate in an unmistakably serpentine fashion, thought to be possible due to its extra vertebrae. The markings on a lorises coat ape the markings of a snake perfectly. When threatened the slow loris adopts a snake like defensive posture, hissing while clasping their paws to their heads. As strange as it is, in this pose the slow loris's upraised arms combined with the dark markings on its furry little face look unnervingly like the expanded hood of a riled Spectacled cobra.

Slow loris's upraised arms
Slow Loris in a Defensive Pose

Not much is known about the slow lorises mating habits outside of captivity. We do know Slow lorises are dioecious, polygamous and reproduce all year round. When it comes to mating the slow loris doesn’t live up to its name. Love making is all over and done with in about 5-7 minutes, I presume they then settle down to watch EastEnders. The gestation period is about 6 months long and a litter will produce 1-2 infants. Though only a few ounces when born, slow lorises come into the world fully formed, able to grasp branches and with their big expressive eyes open.

Threat: To Cute to Live?

10 years ago, not many had heard of the slow loris, but in 2009 social media struck. A video of a captive slow loris being tickled by its idiot owner quickly went viral. Though it seemed harmless and that the slow loris was enjoying the attention, the behaviour it was displaying was a defensive one. Experts understood what the layperson didn’t, the animal was terrified and most probably due to the harsh lighting was in some considerable pain. These viral loris videos led to an increase in the illegal loris trade, but many who wanted one had no idea of just how lorises suffer before they make it to a home.

Listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List
Listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List

These amazing creatures once captured are shoved into plastic bags and crates. Worse still, before being sold their teeth are ripped out with crude tools. This is done with no anaesthesia, no aftercare and no medicine, meaning most die from infection before they make it to their potential owners. Do you still want one? Their numbers have also declined due to habitat loss and poaching for traditional native medicines. Listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List, sighting a slow loris in the wild is now very rare.

What You Can Do

International Animal Rescue set up the Tickling is Torture campaign in 2015. The campaign aims to educate people on the problems with so-called cute loris vids and keeping them as pets. You can sign the pledge which asks that people not to share exploitative loris videos. Almost 700,000 people have signed the petition or made donations to keep the ‘Tickling is Torture’ campaign going.

Did You Know

  • For an animal that moves at such a glacial pace it may surprise you to know the loris can travel up to 8 Km in one night.

  • Sadly, in parts of Asia they still believe the slow loris can cure up to 100 different ailments and diseases.

  • All Nycticebus species have a light reflecting layer in their eyes called tapetum lucidum. Their eyes are the largest of all the primates and are the most forward facing. Meaning the slow loris can see perfectly in almost complete darkness.

  • The word “loris” is Dutch, it translates as ‘clown’. Considering the lorises facial features the name is apt.

  • Slow lorises have a gland on their arms which produce an inactive toxin. However, when this toxin is mixed with their saliva it becomes active as well as deadly.

  • Slow lorises are omnivores, eating insects and other arthropods, small birds and reptiles, eggs, fruits, gums, and nectar.

For more information on conservation projects in Mongolia and Bhutan or to book one of our Birding, Trekking, Botany or Wildlife Tours, please contact 020 3877 0670.