Photo taken by Dr. Karmele Llano Sánchez of the International Animal Rescue
In 2007, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora listed slow lorises under Appendix 1, the strictest level of protection provided, which prohibits international commercial trade of slow lorises. Additionally, in 2010, the International Union for Conservation of Nature listed all five species of slow loris as either vulnerable or endangered “due to severe and persistent persecution for the pet trade.” But despite the laws prohibiting the slow loris trade, enforcement of these laws is lacking, and thousands of slow lorises are still poached from the wild and illegally sold for the exotic pet trade, for use in traditional medicine, and as bushmeat (meat from endangered animals).
Standard practices involve stealing infant slow lorises from their mothers (often resulting in the death of their mothers), transporting them in poorly ventilated, cramped wire cages that cut their sensitive hands and feet, and cutting or pulling off their teeth with nail clippers—a procedure done without anesthetic, to make them “better” pets. It is not surprising that 76% of captured slow lorises die from stress, poor nutrition or infection while in transit to pet shops in Japan and Europe, or to be sold on the streets of Indonesia. But not all slow lorises are sold as pets. Many are dismembered for use in traditional medicine as love potions, cures for leprosy, or to ward off evil spirits (note: they don’t work).
In 2013, three new species of slow loris were distinguished. Two species—N. bancanus and N. borneanus—had previously been thought to be subspecies of the Bornean slow loris, and a new species—N. kayan—was discovered. Prior to this split, Bornean slow lorises were considered “low risk” because they seemed to be somewhat common due to their broad geographical distribution. However, with the new knowledge that Bornean slow lorises are actually comprised of four separate species, they are now known to be at a higher risk of extinction than originally presumed. Furthermore, accurately identifying distinct species of slow loris is critical to conservation efforts because it is essential for rescue centers and confiscation authorities to release them to appropriate locations.
The proper understanding of slow loris speciation is just one way scientific research is key to conservation efforts and developing effective policy. The first meeting of the Plenary of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services is now underway in Bonn, Germany. Although the purpose of this meeting is primarily to agree on rules of procedure for the platform, it is a significant step toward bridging the gap between science and policy to preserve biodiversity in terrestrial, marine, coastal, and inland water ecosystems. Along with improved scientific understanding and increased public awareness, 2013 could bring some positive changes for our cute, nocturnal friends and other animals harmed by the illegal wildlife trade.
Written for SIEL by:
Jia Feng, 1L