Viral Videos May Bring Quick End to Slow Loris
It's no surprise that the ultra-cute, saucer-eyed slow loris has become a star. In viral video clips, the tiny nocturnal primate appears docile and drowsy as it clutches a cocktail umbrella or gets tickled. But the charismatic creature may be too cute for its own good — increased demand for pet slow lorises threatens to wipe out the species in Southeast Asia.
All five species of the primate were already listed as vulnerable or endangered due to fragmented habitat and poaching before hitting YouTube stardom. It is believed that the slow loris has supernatural powers that ward off evil spirits; organized crime syndicates profit from the demand in East Asia for animal parts.
While the slow loris might not possess magical powers, the animal does have sharp teeth and venom, which it produces in a gland behind its elbow. Poachers make quick work of removing the teeth after capture, which can can lead to infection and death.
Already highly sought as pets in Russia and Japan, recent videos of a slow loris toting a little umbrella have helped slow-loris mania spread to Europe and the United States. Despite laws against trafficking endangered species at both local and international levels, the illegal trade continues to thrive from Thailand to Jakarta.
Activists have appealed to YouTube to take down the videos and a Care2 petition has captured more than 2,600 signatures. Unless the petition goes viral, the slow loris may be stuck in the spotlight: "Slow loris with a tiny umbrella" has attracted more than four million views on YouTube.
--Cyndy Patrick/photo by iStockphoto/warmer