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Walk into the dimly red-lit area of your Zoo’s Primate, Cats and Aquatic building and feel an instant shift – not frightening, but a bit mysterious.

Alongside the endearing aye-aye and Moholi bush baby lives the pygmy slow loris, whose perfectly round eyes are impossible to ignore, and who is, unavoidably, cute.

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Slow loris inside the Primate, Cat & Aquatics Building at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

“Cute” has proven to be a problem for the loris, which is listed by IUCN as “endangered” largely due to the illegal pet trade. While it may seem out of reach, the link between consumer behavior and slow loris conservation couldn’t be more important; simply choosing not to view or share videos that depict lorises as pets helps combat their illegal trade.

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Slow loris in the wild, courtesy of Little Fireface Project

Your Zoo’s partner in loris conservation, Little Fireface Project (LFP), has made impressive strides in better understanding what they call “venomous furballs of death” in the last year.

From several published papers, here are some highlights:

  • Young lorises engage in play to prepare themselves for hypothetical future scenarios. The LFP team observed lorises taking greater risks and attempting more difficult postures that resembled adults’ venom postures during play. Young lorises also appear to choose older individuals for these bouts, suggesting that they seek to learn from their “elders”.

  • Wildlife bridges are a cost-effective way to address habitat fragmentation. LFP researchers found 19 species that utilized the bridges in their area of study, including lorises, civets, sunda cats, tree shrews, squirrels, badgers, and birds.

  • A study of the dark-colored dorsal stripe on slow lorises revealed multiple purposes and factors for variation. The level of contrast between the stripe and the rest of the loris’s coloration varied by age and season, suggesting that it serves to deter predators and rivals and aid in concealment and camouflage.

The Little Fireface Project: Building bridges for slow loris conservation part 1

As one of only 16 venomous mammal species, the slow loris will always be enigmatic, but deepening our knowledge of their ecology and behavior are key to developing plans to protect them in the wild. Slow and Slender Loris Outreach Week (SLOW) begins on October 11, and this year is particularly momentous as Little Fireface Project celebrates 10 years of loris conservation. A virtual conference on October 16 will feature LFP team members past and present sharing insights into loris behavior, ecology, and conservation; register here.

Author: Emily Baber

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