Tickling Slow Loris: The Truth

http---wwwprofaunaorg-download-publOver two years on from my run and I am very proud to say I’m still receiving visitors. Hi there!

Most hits appear to be from Google which suggests you’d like to learn about lorises. Please have a browse below for information on pet lorises, otherwise the best things you can do are to watch this video and visit this page.

Helping out their prosimian cousins in Madagascar would also be great. I did say I’d do another one for lemurs.

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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.

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.