Run Loris, Run!

"No pain, no pain."

“No pain, no pain.”

Sunday didn’t begin well. Having been advised to get a bus from Charlton, after 40 minutes of standing in the cold I eventually got a lift to the O2 in the back of a stranger’s car. The queue was then too big to register my loris shirt. Taking Forrest for a walk amongst the crowds though, I made my way to my starting pen showing off my ‘I love lorises’ badge and scarf. Go time.

The preceding week was nervy. Worried aches and pains were potential injuries I set off slowly, aiming to conserve energy for the hills and final miles. It’s a half-marathon not a sprint remember, and the last thing I wanted was to retire and let down every single individual who’d donated. Picking through people though, I found a comfortable pace and hit 6 miles in just under an hour. Not bad but not enough.

Fatigue crept in but it’s that point in the race which is make or break, and the thoughts of lorises and donations really did help. Forced to use footpaths to overtake, my mile times started to fall whilst my knees began to throb again, blisters formed and my left ankle tore at me. Although tempted to stop or slow for a break, doing so would actually have been more painful.

Somehow my three mile split through Greenwich and its park was actually my fastest. Reaching the 12 marker, my race highlight was probably bouncing along the area’s historic streets, high-fiving children whilst one my favourite techno tunes of 2012 played. Julian Jeweil’s The Gang for any dance connoisseurs.

1.1 remaining then. Surrounded by crowds and with months of preparation behind you, you persevere despite your body demanding otherwise. My last 10 minutes felt like hours. I collapsed over the finish line an emotional mess, barely able to stand and tears of relief, joy, pride and agony seeping out.

So that was Run Loris, Run! It took me 2:05:41, an average of 9:35 per mile. I couldn’t have done any more, and 4 days later am still having trouble walking. It was worth it, though. To do that and raise over £700 is not just humbling, but one of the biggest achievements of my life.  As far as I know no else one in the UK’s done such a thing for the loris, or maybe even further afield.

Although I’ve focused on the pet trade, this merely is the iceberg’s tip. Traditional medicine is also a huge threat to the loris, plus deforestation, bushmeat and now the emergence of tourist lorises in Thailand. A couple of weeks ago, the Javan slow loris was once more named one of the planet’s 25 most endangered primates. Anyone who contributed in any way to my run should feel a great sense of pride.

I think I will do another half-marathon. As much as I have enjoyed this however, I may have to leave it a while before doing one for another animal. Give it two or three years and you might come across a similar site. In the meantime a heartfelt thank you to everyone who’s promoted this, donated, given me training tips, offered support, or put up with my no-nicotine tantrums. You’ve all helped play a small part in saving a truly unique, beautiful and fascinating species. Terima Kasih.

Eye of the Loris

Gladiators, ready!

Contenders, ready!

This time tomorrow it will all be over. The end of all the planning, training and worrying, the only things left to do a write-up and to ensure the Little Fireface Project get all donations safely.

The build-up hasn’t been easy. Following 11.8 miles on Friday 19th, I’ve had a couple of niggling injuries to content with which have resulted in something of a limp and me having to wear a knee strap. It hasn’t helped either that any masseuse I’ve contacted in the area hasn’t been of the sports variety.

Since that one last long run then, I’ve made it out only once more but at this late stage you’re more likely to hinder rather than help your chances. Instead, I have focused on a carb and fruit rich diet that most primates would be proud of. Tonight that’ll be topped off with a large pasta dish, probably whilst I watch Rocky IV for some extra eleventh hour inspiration.

Tomorrow morning will be an early one, helped slightly by the clock change. I’m still unsure what time though. The organisers have provided a shirt and stated anyone wearing their charity’s will have to get there around 7:30am to obtain a paper race number. Thus I’m undecided on which one I wear, especially since one should favour the cold conditions. Either way, at least a few hundred people will be seeing Forrest before and after, whilst the loris scarves shall be flying high.

Given that 18’000 people are running, the race’s start will be a frustrating and slow game of evasion. Using the mantra ‘any energy not used then can be used at the end’ I’ll keep it steady until five miles and check my progress. I know around nine miles is where it begins to hurt. For me, the base of the toes on my right foot begin to feel bruised, whilst one or two later is when the inside of both knees give me a more direct, shooting pain. Thankfully the end is largely downhill.

What happens on the day will largely affect my time rather than my preparation. I can promise that I won’t leave anything out there, and will have the thoughts of your donations and our loris relatives helping me through any dark passages. Once finished, I’ll try to post a Twitter update with a time that will appear on my page here. A wedding red wine besides, I’ve stuck to my word on alcohol so it’ll then be off to a pub lunch and celebratory drinks.

I’ll save my thank yous for afterwards. In the meantime, if you could share this or my Justgiving page it would be hugely appreciated; donating or not, you can help spread the word of slow lorises and the struggles they face.

Dear Diary – Part 3

Title 2

Not Forrest, but Youtube ‘celebrity’ Sonya. Behind her eyes lies a similar story.

Pain. Sadness. Loneliness. Torture. This is the existence of a pet slow loris. After being ripped from my mother and my teeth removed with pliers, I was then stuffed in a man’s pockets and smuggled aboard an airplane to be taken far away from Asia.

The loris in the man’s other pocket died. No doubt he just phoned for another to be taken from the rainforest, thus the whole vicious cycle is repeated again. I haven’t seen a tree, let alone the forest in weeks now. I’m so, so homesick. Looking around, all I see are metal bars and a water bottle made for hamsters.

That I’m forced to live in a three-by-two-by-two foot cage is bad enough when adult lorises can comfortably travel five plus miles in a night. Often we’re then fed human food through the bars, forcing down horrible, unnatural things such as rice through our now mangled teeth. This makes us seriously ill. With our digestive systems made for gums and insects that even zoos struggle to provide, my life expectancy is now between one and two years. Back in the forest it’d be twenty plus.

Other factors also add to this. The temperature and climate also make us unwell, we’re not adaptable beings at all. That’s why we’re found in so few places. Put ‘cute’ clothes or props on us and the situation’s even worse. Often this is around the time we’re taken out of our cages and a camera shoved in our face, poked and leered at as though circus performers. Most of those who watch the resulting videos do not understand.

Millions of people have seen these clips on Youtube. Very few stop to think that we’re nocturnal and so the bright lights and flashing of lenses scares us and damages our eyes, whilst even less people realise that us holding our arms in the air to be ‘tickled’ is in fact a defensive mechanism; it’s from here that we secrete part of our poison.

Despite our name, slow lorises really aren’t that slow. These situations and the lights force us into a shocked state though, making our movements lethargic and laboured. And you think that we look happy? Try spending the other twenty-three hours and fifty-eight minutes of your day stuffed inside a small metallic prison.

‘Liking’ these videos on Youtube then makes the owner money. This in effect is offering financial incentive to own a loris. I shouldn’t have even heard of the word ‘money’. In turn, organised crime is funded by the illegal smuggling of lorises. Behind drugs and arms, wildlife is the world’s third most profitable illicit trade.

In a way I wish I’d died back in the market or on the plane. I’m not sure my body can handle much more. I’ll probably be dead soon. I just hope that not many others have to go through this. We should be left alone in the jungle, as all wildlife should. Not paraded in front of cameras with umbrellas, whilst back in Asia for each one who dies in a market or airport another few are taken from the forest. I could go on but one little loris can’t make a difference. Hopefully you can.

In only ten days I am partaking in the Run to the Beat half-marathon in aid of the Little Fireface Project and slow lorises. Please help me to help them.

28 Days Beforehand

My own personal battleground in the fight to save lorises

13.1 miles. I couldn’t do 1.1 when I started.

So… Five months since I signed up and the time has flown by. On many occasions I have doubted myself and my ability to finish this run, but with a little under a month left I am satisfied in saying I finally do feel like a long-distance runner.

Already it has been quite an adventure. From helping out at WOMAD to sitting at the bar with Forrest in Denmark, any low points have easily been bettered by the high ones. Currently I am comfortably running around eight miles, with my training consisting of one long run per week, plus one or two smaller ones in order to minimise injury risk. At present pace I am on the borderline of what could be considered a very good time, at the worst respectable.

What that border (or indeed target) is I’m going to keep quiet about, but in order to hopefully err more on the ‘good’ side I have not just quit smoking but [drumroll]… Alcohol. Or at least from October 1st I will be. Not to sound like an alcoholic, but having gone to uni, been backpacking twice and being at football most weeks (clue: they’re on the map), that is a fairly big deal for me. Although a temporary measure, it should ensure that I’m at peak fitness when the 28th arrives. Also as an added bonus, this will mean my girlfriend has to double her donation. Which brings me on to my next point…

A huge ‘thank you’ to everyone who has donated so far. After setting my initial target as £250, to sit on almost £500 this far in advance is truly humbling. No matter how big or small the amount, seeing an email titled ‘Someone’s made a donation on your page‘ in my inbox always brings a smile to my face (and also Forrest’s). Rest assured that all funds will be used in the best possible way in the ongoing fight to help save the slow loris.

Having been advised not to train up to the full thirteen (point one, that could make all the difference) miles, my next goal personal goal is to work up to around eleven whilst taking in as many hills as possible; if you can handle them, then it makes the flatter parts all the easier. I will also be taking on a more loris like diet with lots of fruit, carbs and proteins, obviously taking care to avoid such things as bugs and reptiles along the way. I’m not doing that raw egg thing either, sorry.

In the meantime, keep an eye on this site for Forrest’s final diary entry, whilst I myself will check in once or twice before the big day. The finish line is most definitely in sight.

Forrest on Tour

To celebrate Loris Awareness Week beginning next Monday, I recently took some time out from training to take Forrest on holiday to Denmark and Sweden. Although we unsurprisingly drew some strange looks, an interested few did ask some questions and so we were able to spread the word a little more…

A full update will follow soon. The big day of October 28th is seemingly coming around very quickly, hopefully by then I’ll be more than ready and thanks to your kind donations we’ll have passed the target of £500.00.

Dear Diary – Part 2

For part 1 click here

Forrest a long way from home.

Forrest a long way from home.

There ended up being thirteen of us inside that box. With nowhere else to go it turned into a cramped, smelly, acrid mess. My fur had gotten matted to my skin, making my bones stick out even further. We’d received a little more food, but only of the human variety and it made most of us vomit.

Thirteen soon became twelve. The difference? Me. After nearly two weeks of sheer misery, I was gifted an escape from the market. Or so I thought. No I wasn’t thrown out, nor did I become a meal, but I was handed over to another man. He didn’t look like the ones I recognised. He dressed differently too. I think I heard him referred to as ‘Middleman.’

I didn’t know what to think. My face still throbbed, I was dirty, starving and I hadn’t seen a tree in a fortnight. By now I’d stopped pinching myself, trying to wake up. I saw some paper changing hands then Middleman picked me up by the scruff of the neck, the stretched skin sending fresh pulses of pain through my face. He smiled. I began to cry again.

I was thrown into another bag. This time there was only one other loris, from another island. We had a little more room but she just laid there in a fetal position and whimpering. Maybe she knew what was going to happen. The bag was zipped up and suddenly I was flying though the air before hitting a hard surface with a thud. A strange rumbling vibrated around me before we began to move again, tossing the bag against the surrounding walls. That was the first but unfortunately not the last time I was taken somewhere in a car.

About an hour we stopped. The boot opened and the bag was picked up, Middleman revealing himself leering at us soon after. The other loris whose name I can’t remember had stopped whimpering by now. Though I’m sure she was also in pain, she appeared numb, her face a picture of utter defeat.

Suddenly Middleman thrust his hand up and grasped my neck, shoving me downwards and crushing me into one of his trouser pockets. With no way out and no air, I went into shock. Us lorises do that a lot when so scared. You can’t move or cry, or do anything. This way they know you won’t try to get out or attract attention. You’re forced to huddle there motionless and silent as though drugged, whilst they push their bag into the x-ray machine and walk through the metal detector like they don’t have one of the world’s most endangered primates lining their pockets. Yes, this really does happen.

No one likes flying, do they? Try being a loris on a twelve hour flight and not knowing where you are, what the noise is, why you’re moving so fast or when the nightmare’s going to end. The scream of the engines alone I will never forget. A lot of lorises die in transit and I almost, almost wished that I was back in the market. I’m pretty sure my face would have been showing the same look as the other loris’s, who’d been forced into Middleman’s other pocket. Still, at least he’d looked happy.

I’d heard the names of some strange places like Russia and Japan and Germany when the rumours had been going around the market. I guessed it was one of these I was heading to. I’d heard another word as well, something I should never have heard in my life: ‘pet.’ The idea of this is perhaps the most horrifying of them all…

Ode to a Loris

Credit: Dr. Karmele Llano Sánchez of the International Animal Rescue

Credit: Dr. Karmele Llano Sánchez of the International Animal Rescue

Climbing, creeping, exploring and hunting,
The sun plummets  and they don’t stop moving,
From India to Indonesia roaming the woods,
Feeding off insects, eggs, gum and other goods.

For this animal that we all know as the loris,
Should have no other home than the forest,
Afraid of the light and with a poisonous bite,
With few friends or allies they now face a fight.

Thanks to medicine, poaching and outright theft,
The Asian jungles are now largely bereft,
Whilst they’re not just fluff balls or a pretty face,
In the environment and ecology they have a place.

Awareness, enlightenment and education,
We can all play a part in helping to save them,
With too much torture, suffering, killing and pain,
By contributing a little there is so much to gain.