By Jeremy Hance
Before Anna Nekaris began championing the cause of the world's lorises, little was known about this cryptic family of large-eyed, nocturnal, insect-eating, venomous primates. Nekaris, with Oxford Brookes University and founder of the Little Fireface Project, has been instrumental in documenting rarely-seen loris behavior, establishing conservation programs, and identifying new species of these hugely-imperiled Asian primates.
"I just fell in love with them. The slender lorises were like googly eyed bananas on stilts, and the slow lorises were like pumped up versions," Nekaris told mongabay.com in an interview. "They always look so crafty when you spot one in the forest, as if they have been watching you for hours, while you have been searching for them. They were considered ugly, brown and boring by most primatologists. Second-rate citizens to the fabulous lemurs. But I found out they could race walk as fast as a squirrel could run, their home ranges were the size of 20 football pitches, they could decapitate noxious insects at a rate that would make a french revolutionary proud, and that they loved each other!"
But loris species, some of which are found only on single islands, are facing a barrage of threats. Deforestation across Central and Southeast Asia for monoculture plantations, logging, and other development is devastating loris habitat. Meanwhile superstitions in some parts of the world lead locals to kill lorises at sight.Finally the illegal pet trade in lorises—exacerbated in part by 'cute' YouTube videos—is adding a new and particularly cruel threat.
"Sadly during the course of illegal smuggling, most [lorises\ die due to stress; the next lot die when their teeth are cut out as not to deliver a venomous bite; the ones that get to their 'owners' die due to environmental stress (wire cage, bright light, loneliness), and horrific malnutrition," Nekaris explains. More....