The Truth Behind Adorable Slow Loris Videos Will Break Your Heart

Editor’s note: This Care2 favorite was originally posted on June 23, 2015. Enjoy!

Slow loris videos have continued to make their way around the internet after one showing a slow loris being tickled went viral a few years ago. But while these creatures are undeniably adorable, the truth behind the videos is anything but cute.

In 2015, the UK-based International Animal Rescue launched a “Tickling is Torture” campaign to keep the public from unwittingly promoting the mistreatment of these little creatures. The organization believes that slow lorises are suffering terribly from our desire to keep these imperiled primates as pets.

With those big eyes and cute little faces, it’s easy to want to share photos and videos, or to dream of owning one. But the continued interest and promotion is spurring demand that’s threatening wild slow lorises and causing serious harm to those in captivity.

According to IAR, these shy, nocturnal animals are subjected to a number of harmful activities when they become part of the illegal pet trade. After being taken from their home in the rainforest, their teeth are crudely clipped or broken off without anesthesia to make them defenseless. This procedure often leads to infection and death — and unfortunately, the trouble doesn’t end there.

As Phily Kennington, the campaign’s leader, explained:

Unspeakable cruelty is involved in the trade in slow lorises and the public must be made aware of this. Apart from the suffering caused by capturing them from the wild and clipping their teeth, keeping these shy little primates in captivity is inherently cruel. Slow lorises travel long distances at night in their hunt for food. They feed on crickets and other live insects, as well as birds’ eggs, fruit and the sap of certain trees. YouTube videos show pet lorises eating rice balls and other unsuitable food, so it’s no surprise that most of them are malnourished and suffering from serious health problems.

IAR isn’t the only group concerned with the fate of slow lorises. A paper published in 2013 by Anna Nekaris, a professor in anthropology and primate conservation at Oxford Brookes University, highlights some of the health risks facing slow lorises that are kept as pets.

Nekaris writes on her website, Little Fireface Project:

Owners have no idea how to care for these social primates with their specialised diets, and their deaths are very long and painful as they starve to death in loneliness, obese with diabetes or rotting teeth from being fed fruit.

Then there’s the tickling thing. The first hugely viral video featured a slow loris named Sonya with her arms up as she’s being tickled in a brightly-lit room. But slow loris advocates want people to know that Sonya and others like her aren’t so much enjoying being tickled, as they are terrified and raising their arms in defense.

These uniquely venomous primates raise their arms to access a venomous gland on their elbow that’s combined with saliva in their mouths. According to IAR, “Given the chance – and if its teeth were still intact – it would give the person doing the tickling a serious bite.”

Of the eight recognized species of slow loris native to South and Southeast Asia, four are now listed as “Vulnerable, ” and one — the Javan slow loris — is now listed as “Critically Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The remaining three species haven’t been evaluated.

Slow lorises face a number of threats that put their future in jeopardy, ranging from deforestation to a demand for bushmeat, but the exotic pet trade is one of the biggest concerns.

International Animal Rescue takes in slow lorises for rehabilitation and release at its primate rescue center in Indonesia — but sadly for those who have been saved but had their teeth damaged, rescuers can’t release them back into the wild.

For now, IAR and other wildlife advocates are calling on us to help by boycotting the pet trade and by not sharing or promoting any media that features these primates as pets.

For more information on how to raise awareness about the slow loris pet trade and how to help them in the wild, visit Tickling is Torture and the Little Fireface Project.


Sign and share this Care2 petition and pledge to avoid watching videos of slow lorises being tickled. Increasing awareness will help stop the demand for slow lorises as pets.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Greta L
Alice L4 months ago

Thank you for sharing

Marie W
Marie Wabout a year ago

Thank you

Melania P
Melania Padillaabout a year ago

No wild animal belongs in a home; wildlife traffic is terrible and it is decimating entire populations of species like pangolins. It does not matter how cute the animals are (they are!); never buy a wild animal.

bob Petermann
robert Petermannabout a year ago

It seems like we have to give voice to everything these DAYS. With climate deniers in high places, tweeting about everything. So around the world people feel they can do what they feel is right for them at anytime. What did the poor Dodo bird ever do. Man should have learned from that. Thanks

Mark Donner
Mark Donnerabout a year ago


joan silaco
joan silacoabout a year ago


Chad A
Chad Andersonabout a year ago


Kelsey S
Kelsey S1 years ago

Thanks, signed

Aaron F
Past Member 1 years ago

Why do humans continue to abuse and exploit animals...for amusement...and for profit...?

Angela K
Angela K1 years ago

Petition already signed & shared