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.

WOMAD

No I am not picking my nose.

The home of all thing loris for an evening.

The World of Music Arts and Dance festival is an event which takes place in various locations across the globe, aiming to bring people together to celebrate musical diversity. One of these gatherings was last weekend at Bristol Zoo, where the Little Fireface Project happened to have a stall.

Not knowing how small Bristol Zoo is, I’d over enthusiastically booked an 8am train from London to allow myself ample time there. Following a bitter dispute with my snooze button at around 5:45am, some impromptu training eventually got me to Bristol on time… But still six hours ahead of anyone else.

Fear not though, for if there’s anywhere I know how to waste time, it’s a zoo. Especially when there are red pandas, lemurs, and of course slow lorises about. Having almost started an argument with someone who referred to the two pygmy slow lorises present as “horrible little things,” it was then time to move on to the main event.

I had done very, very little in the way of preparation. Unless purchasing a sweatband and wearing running shorts counts. After introductions, I was left to hurriedly produce some ‘business cards’ with this website’s details, whilst the team faced a few of their own technical gremlins (pun intended).

With crowds streaming in, I’ll admit to feeling a little stage fright. Such an experience is completely new to me, though thankfully I had Dr Nekaris herself on hand to take lead and I soon learned what was required. Time flew and petition signatures and ‘name a loris’ entrants arrived in greater numbers. Of particular popularity were face painting and mask making, resulting in dozens of little (or should I say big?) lorises running around the grounds.

Realising that standing behind a table I appeared only as an idiot unnecessarily wearing a sweatband, I put more effort into promoting Run Loris, Run! but it was perhaps the wrong environment. I was more than happy however, to talk lorises, raise awareness and encourage other donations. Considering there were two PhD students on our other tables, I don’t think I did too bad a job. My arts and crafts skills are awful anyway.

With rain setting in, we went from part-blocking Bristol Zoo’s biggest attraction to totally blocking their lions. Who are the ‘kings of the jungle’ now, eh? Possibly upset by the music, this also made for the somewhat unique occurrence of having lions repeatedly roar in my direction from roughly ten feet away when talking to people.

Face painting besides, the pace slowed and we were left to discuss other ideas, as well as lorises’ relationships with orangutans (not good), the Jungle Gremlins of Java production, and a quick demonstration of loris finding techniques in the wild. Hopefully one day I’ll see them as they’re meant to be.

I departed then, only a couple of cards lighter but content with my night’s work and having had a lot of fun. Plus with a potential lecture attendance and rumours of a video, the best should be yet to come…

A huge ‘terima kasih’ to those who have donated so far. Thanks to your support I have now doubled my initial target of £250, which will mean even more loris lives saved.

Dear Diary – Part 1

Happy in the wild vs. Helpless in a market.

Happy in the wild vs. Helpless in a market.

Hi. My name’s Forrest. My owner called me this because he thinks it’s funny, but really us slow lorises shouldn’t be given names. Ironic as well since forests are the only places I’m happy, not that he cares.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen one. I was out on my evening stroll with my mum a few months ago, when all of a sudden there were lights and noise all around us. Some strange creature I now know to be a ‘human’ shone a torch into her big beautiful eyes, blinded her, and then they murdered her. She fell from the tree, whilst I was grabbed kicking and screaming and thrown into a bag full of other baby lorises. Apparently we’re easier to handle.

A couple of hours later, we were released into a bright, scary room. They picked up one of the other lorises, along with a pair of pliers. They pulled out her teeth. Oh my God, the blood… She cried and shouted and the floor turned red, before blacking out. Then the man looked at me. I don’t remember much of what happened next.

I woke up shivering and my whole face hurting badly. Looking around, there were six others in the box with me and all in agony. I guess painkillers would be a waste of money. Where their teeth had been, I could only see open, festering holes. Some looked infected. It’s really hot and humid in the tropics, so germs can be rampant. This is where a lot of lorises die. The poachers then just go back into the jungle and find some more.

All I wanted was my mum, but I tried not to think about her body being left to rot back in the woods. Instead, us orphans clung together trying to offer a little comfort. Minutes turned into hours, and hours into days. The nausea and feeling of weakness went up, whilst my hopes went down. For one of the others it was already too late.

Some time later we were taken to an animal market and stuffed into a tiny cage with some other lorises. We would only be briefly let out when someone wanted to take a look at us, usually picking us up, or poking and smiling at us like they thought they were being nice. Left outside, people don’t realise either that we don’t like daylight and it hurts our eyes. We’re nocturnal beings, any time the sun’s up I should be safely tucked up in a tree sleeping.

Stomach growls began to accompany the whimpering which engulfed us all. By now I could start to see my bones sticking out through my thick fur. I did get the occasional scrap of food, though I had trouble eating it for obvious reasons. Water was a little easier, but also had to be rationed between us. Another couple of lorises had arrived by then, including one missing an eye and one who didn’t stop crying for his mother. I knew how he felt.

Occasionally one of the orphans would be plucked out legs first, receive an all over eye exam and then disappear, seemingly forever. Were they to become meals? Were they so weak that they’d simply be thrown away? Or had they been sent away to some distant, unknown land as a few rumours said..? A couple of nights later, I discovered the answer.

A Long and Winding Road

Meet Forrest

Meet Forrest. The only type of loris you should even think about owning.

It began in early April. Drunkenly ranting about animals as usual, a friend asked if I’d fancy a half-marathon.  I’d like to say that it was a handshake right there that tied me in like my tattoo and South America, but I instead gave it some headache infused thought the next day. The answer was a ‘yes.’

Having that week seen Jungle Gremlins of Java, my inebriated babble wasn’t of red pandas or lemurs for a change, but slow lorises. I was aware already aware of them and even tried finding wild ones myself in Southeast Asia last year, but I hadn’t known how big a fight they face. I’m not ashamed to say I shed some tears when watching the market scenes.

Slow lorises do face a unique threat. Like many other species they are hunted for traditional medicines and their habitats are being torn apart, but few other creatures also face the wrath of the internet. At a glance, over twenty million people have viewed Youtube’s videos of them being kept as household pets.

I can’t add much on the subject which hasn’t been mentioned elsewhere. What I can do though, is help in raising awareness whilst all donations will go directly to Dr Anna Nekaris of the Little Fireface Project, and on to Indonesia. Still having five months to go, with a little assistance I can hopefully achieve a lot.

My initial training efforts consisted of Marlboro tasting cardiovascular warmups, followed by twenty minute whinges around the streets of Dartford, then a consolatory cigarette on return. I needed help. Progress has been slow, but smoking is hopefully now a thing of the past and nine minutes per mile is no problem. I’ve even found out that a gait analysis has nothing to do with fences, doors or farms.

Although I cautiously signed up for the two hour plus bracket, I’ll be aiming to go under the hundred and twenty minute mark. Either way, it’s a good thing that Amazon and eBay don’t stock slow loris costumes. Should you know of any and their whereabouts, then please leave me in blissful ignorance as I probably would get drunk and order one.

Instead, I will proudly be donning a Little Fireface Project T-shirt whilst the thought of our furry little friends will help me kick on from my current maximum of four miles. Trebling that and then some is going to be a long and difficult road, but I’ll be content in the knowledge that I’ll be helping to save the slow loris one stride at a time.

Cry of the Slow Loris

Confiscated Pygmy Lorises in Thailand

Cute. Cuddly. Fluffy. Adorable. Wild. These are all words which describe Southeast Asia’s most peculiar primate, the slow loris. Compared to their distant relatives but neighbours such as orang-utans and macaques, lorises have clambered under the public radar. That is until recently. With the advent of the internet and Youtube, these particular prosimians are now known to millions worldwide.

Lorises are difficult enough keep in zoos. Relatively little is known about the species, whilst they fall into the somewhat unique category of venomous mammals. Secreting oil from their arms, this is mixed with saliva to create a potentially deadly cocktail when biting. Therefore when illegally captured from the wild, the first port of call is to remove their teeth. This is performed mercilessly with appliances such as wire cutters or pliers, often leaving the wound to become infected and resulting in a slow, painful death.

Meanwhile in the cyber world, videos of lorises as pets are becoming ever increasingly popular. Shown being tickled, holding umbrellas or taken on car rides, the scenes appear innocent. In turn, comments are left about how great a pet they must be, plus the inevitable inquiries as to where they can be purchased. Behind that though, is a world of suffering. For each one sent from a wildlife market and then across Asia, America or Europe, they are replaced. More are plucked from the jungle, more mothers are separated from their young, and more die for nothing.

With their habitat also being destroyed and the continued poaching of them for bush meat and supposed medicinal purposes, one of the planet’s most loveable animals is facing the very real threat of extinction. Despite a worldwide ban on the trade of the slow loris, we need to act and to educate, before its fate is sealed. Can you help?