Slender lorises smuggled in India


Three men were apprehended at India’s New Delhi airport for smuggling slender lorises, a small nocturnal primate. The men were en route from Bangkok to Dubai when a routine pat down revealed a loris stuffed in one man’s underwear. A second loris was found in a nearby trash can. Both primates are now under the care of wildlife authorities. For more on the incident, see The Hindu or The Huffington Post.

Both slow and slender lorises, featured on YouTube videos, are seen in the pet trade because they’re cute. However, the trade can be a disaster for the species. For more on the trade, see my interview with primate scientist Anna Nekaris.

Did you know that the lovable, furry Ewoks in Star Wars films were modeled after slow lorises? But unlike Ewoks, lorises can’t jump or leap, which means they can only move through the forest canopy by using branches that touch.That makes an intact forest vital to their survival. Lorises are also one of the only venomous primates. They have a form of biological venom that’s produced by a gland in their elbows, which they mix with saliva to create a powerful toxin. These unique characteristics are what make them a sought after ingredient in traditional medicine across Asia. In fact, Anna and her research team recently completed the first major study of the use of lorises in traditional medicine in Asia and found a multitude of uses — as a tonic for women after childbirth, for stomach problems, for healing wounds and broken bones, and in the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. Lorises are seen as “an animal with 100 uses,” akin to aspirin in Western medicine.