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Adorable Brand New Primate Species Already Disappearing Via Exotic Pet Shops

Adorable Brand New Primate Species Already Disappearing Via Exotic Pet Shops

A new species of slow loris, with the Latin designation Nycticebus kayan, has just been discovered in Borneo. Like many small mammals, it’s just about the most adorable thing you’ve ever seen. It’s also, while not officially evaluated yet, likely to be a threatened species, just like all the related Bornean lorises.

The report just ran in the American Journal of Primatology, under the title “Taxonomy of the Bornean Slow Loris, with new species Nycticebus kayan (Primates, Lorisidae)”. (I’m sure the primatologists and taxonomists in the audience will be rushing off to grab the latest copy.)

Altough the planet has long been well-mapped in the geographic sense, we are still far from understanding the full shape and form of the living world. The slow lorises are a good example of larger land animals that are nevertheless difficult to study, because they live high in the trees and are active mainly at night. Which is why it’s still possible, even in 2012, to discover a new species.

In fact, while a group of lorises on the island of Borneo was, just a few years ago, under a single species banner, that of the Bornean slow loris (Nycticebus borneanus), scientists now recognize there are four distinct species on the island. Based on previous studies, the three original sub-species of the Bornean loris were elevated by a taxonomic level, while this fourth species is just now being recognized for the first time.

The same difficulties in determining what species are out there also makes it difficult to ascertain conservation status, let alone protect threatened species. Like many small primates, slow lorises are cute and furry, while also looking just exotic enough to attract interest. Illegal trafficking in the exotic pet trade is very high for the Bornean lorises, which makes it a near certainty that members of this undiscovered species have died in people’s homes without their realizing it.

Yes, they do die. For a person in a Western country to try and acquire the necessary foods for a slow loris’ diet is next to impossible, and most can’t be bothered. Many of these ill-cared for pets will get along for a little while on whatever they’re given, until they die from the nutrient deficiencies in their diet, lack of medical attention or simple depression (like most primates, these are social animals that don’t do well alone or in captivity).

There’s more. The slow lorises are unique amongst primates (and extremely rare amongst mammals in general), in that they possess a venomous bite. Pet traders usually yank out their canines before selling them, an action which has all the requisite side-effects: horrible pain, infection and sometimes death.

But look at that face! An animal this cute has to be poached, shipped illegally and secretly across the world with little care for its health, so that some privileged idiot can use it as a fashion accessory until it dies. Just rip out all the parts of its body that aren’t convenient for you — it’s happy simply to have a loving family. Until it dies in pain and alone.

Some developed countries, like Japan, seem to quietly condone the keeping of exotic pets. Japan’s Wildlife Conservation Society has a report with some frightening numbers on the incredible ease with which people, especially women, can acquire a slow loris as a pet. Incredibly, pet shops are able to boldly advertise these animals for sale with few repercussions.

This goes back to a mindset of animals as toys rather than living creatures. I don’t expect to change any exotic pet purchaser’s mind. But I’d like to see some political pressure on the government officials and leaders to crack down on this travesty before these species disappears forever.


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Photo credit: David Haring at Duke Lemur Center; used by permission

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9:59AM PDT on Apr 17, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

6:14AM PST on Feb 1, 2013

Just looking AT those adorable eyes can make you "understand" why people would want to own one .......... but look INTO those same eyes ...... they're saying, LOUD AND CLEAR, "I'm frightened - please leave me alone, and don't take me away from my home " !!!!!

5:46AM PST on Feb 1, 2013

We've got to do something before just being able to see them in books

5:29PM PST on Jan 11, 2013

Petition signed. And I'd also like to "... see some political pressure on the government officials and leaders to crack down on this travesty before these species disappears forever"!

3:31PM PST on Jan 7, 2013

In the Philippines we call this primates "Tarsier" we have this Bohol, you can find them in Bohol well taken cared of, because of its extinction . .. . . .This minature "Tarsiers" are really adorable the reason why stupid people insist on buying it for pet. . Come and visit Bohol, Philippines, where you can also view the Chocolate Hills where this primates are found . . .

9:30AM PST on Jan 7, 2013

This is so wrong! Wild animals should be illegal as pets around the world!!

7:14AM PST on Jan 6, 2013

Petition signed!

7:47AM PST on Jan 5, 2013

thanks for sharing :)

11:10AM PST on Jan 2, 2013

Ditto Andrew C and so many other posts here. Humans are the worst species on this planet. It's no wonder why I prefer the company of animals to many humans.

I hope this species can be saved.

7:52AM PST on Jan 2, 2013


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