Slow Lorises don’t have it easy. Everyone thinks they are slow because of their name, and because of the lack of evidence everyone thinks they eat fruit and rice. For this reason many lorises in captive settings receive inadequate diets and with inadequate furniture. They are also absolutely adorable and they are a hot commodity in the illegal pet trade which is pushing their dwindling wild populations to extinction.
Paignton Zoo has been at the forefront of slow loris nutrition, conducting research on captive diets. Turns out feeding them what they eat in the wild – gum, insects and nectar – is healthier for them than fruit and hard boiled eggs or chicks. It encourages natural behaviours and decreases abnormal behaviour patterns.
The Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust is also funding intense research into the natural feeding behaviour of the Javan slow loris (Nycticebus javanicus), which aims to itemise and quantify the diet of wild individuals. This new data will be used to create nutrient recommendations which will guide the creation of the ideal captive diet. Not only is this important for zoos but also for rescue centres in South East Asia which are full to the brim of confiscated lorises, most of which are fed poor diets. Having a wild standard and nutrient guide is the absolute ideal when creating a zoo diet! The wild animals will be observed at the Little Fireface Project. Hopefully reintroductions will be more successful after they have a healthy and appropriate diet in captivity.
This week is the Slow Loris Outreach Week (SLOW, get it?) and it is our goal to spread the plight of the slow loris. Surprising slow loris facts:
1. Slow lorises are not slow! They are very agile and strong but they cannot jump so they must be within reaching distance of other branches. If they have somewhere they need to be … one blink and they are gone!
2. They are extremely popular in the pet trade because they are cute but they make AWFUL pets! They naturally have a very pungent smell, they are nocturnal and want to sleep while you are awake and they are venomous and can actually kill you. This is why their teeth are usually ripped out before being sold in the markets.
3. There are 8 species of slow lorises but we are expecting there to be many more after looking at molecular markers.
4. They aren’t as solitary as once believed! A male and female will actually have overlapping territories and can be seen sleeping together occasionally. The male will also play with its offspring.
5. They are very hard to breed in captivity and only a handful of institutions can manage it (including Paignton Zoo!). Any seller saying they were bred in captivity is not telling a likely story.
6. They like to sleep in bamboo patches or on branches of huge trees and prefer places that are less noisy. Guess I am more like a loris than I thought.
You want to help the slow loris during SLOW!? HOW!? Well for starters you can share posts and banners from the Little Fireface Project and other conservation and zoological NGOs! Although be wary of those Youtube videos of the lorises eating rice or being tickled, they are actually illegal pets and sharing those videos has been shown to cause a spike in people wanting them as pets so avoid at all costs!! More importantly, get involved! Come see the pygmy slow lorises at Paignton Zoo (or your nearest BIAZA zoo). They are beautiful and quirky little primates and will entertain you during their inquisitive and puzzling interactions.
This post was written by Francis Cabana, Zoo Nutrition Researcher and PhD student in Primate Conservation at Oxford Brookes University, who is currently carrying out research into the natural feeding ecology of the Javan slow loris with support from the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust. Francis also did research at Paignton Zoo for two years where he first fell in love with slow lorises.