The slow loris is now among the world’s top 25 most endangered primates. Having lost 90% of their tropical forests, exposed and vulnerable lorises are captured and sold illegally through the pet trade, for medicine or exploited as props in tourist photos. Traders cut out their venomous teeth, so even rescued animals can rarely be returned to the wild. Professor Anna Nekaris and her team at the Little Fireface project are tackling the illegal wildlife trade head on, orchestrating a mass social media campaign to stop tourists posing with captured slow lorises.
Not only does the Little Fireface project undertake education work in the local communities there is also a team of researchers studying behaviour. In this project update Anna gives us an insight into the comings and goings of the study area’s family group and the education projects across Indonesia.
Slow Loris Soap Opera
So we have had exciting times in the last two months. In terms of our slow lorises, we have been working very hard to focus on their dispersal and the social interaction that occurs within groups. We were so charmed to see our baby boy Alomah grow up and get together with female Tereh. They had four offspring together, and Alomah was such a charming playful father to Tombol, Tzatziki, Tyrion and a new tiny baby that we have yet to name. Several months ago, we experienced the disappearance of a female, Maya, who had been the mate of tough boy Fernando. We are not sure if Maya died or moved away, but Fernando stayed with his offspring until they were old enough to disperse themselves. After this he started flirting with the neighbour ladies and about a month ago he entered Tereh and Alomah’s family. To our shock, he fought with and killed Alomah, upsetting the family dynamic. Three year old Tombol moved away (as she should have – she was getting old to stay with the parents). But younger sibling Tzatziki still probably had a few months to go before he should have been on his own. However he headed for the hills as well! He is now living in a field of fairy duster trees at the edge of the protected area. After all that, Fernando went back to neighbouring female Shirley! We are still watching this intense drama, but it confirmed strongly the use of venom for competition among lorises. We also saddened by Alomah’s death, but we can always be heartened to know that these animals were always wild.
Education in local communities
From the education perspective, our Forest Protector programme has been on the road, led by Field Station Coordinator Ella, who visited schools in Central Java, Borneo and in Sumatra. The programme was enjoyed by all and we are excited to see the baseline levels of knowledge. Ella will be returning in about six months for a follow up to all the same schools.
MSc student from Oxford Brookes Lucy has been engaging in our Building Bridges for Slow Loris Conservation education programme in both Java and Sumatra too. It is really exciting to get the comparative perspective but also to see so many similarities in how the children learn and wish to receive knowledge, and how cool and cute children find slow lorises once they know what they are, and how keen they are to keep them wild!