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.

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…

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.