Bringing the urgent plight of endangered primates to a mass audience

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Loris photo taken by Andrew Walmsley, Little Fireface Project

In January 2017, a familiar voice was heard on national and international news outlets warning that many primates are entering the 11th hour before mass extinction.

A recently published article, co-authored by 31 internationally recognised experts, led to extensive media coverage and a series of interviews with Professor Anna Nekaris.

A member of Oxford Brookes’ Nocturnal Primate Research Group and Director of the Little Fireface Project, Professor Nekaris is a highly respected researcher not only within her own field, but with the wider public too. 

This impact is achieved through thousands of followers on social media, extensive campaign work with charities and her ground-breaking that is regularly featured in journals, print, TV and radio. 

A powerful and award-winning Natural World programme screened on the BBC and across the globe is just one example of the documentaries and extensive media coverage focused on Professor Nekaris’ work. 

She is best known for her pioneering studies into the ecology and conservation of the Critically Endangered nocturnal primate, the slow loris.
When YouTube footage of this wild animal being tickled in a Russian flat first appeared, the slow loris became an instant celebrity with over 12 million online views. As someone who has dedicated years to studying this species, you might think that Professor Nekaris was delighted that the slow loris had become so well known, so quickly.

However, overnight fame for the slow loris has created significant problems as more and more people want to keep the species as a pet. The slow loris might look like a harmless, big-eyed baby Ewok from a scene in Star Wars, but the animal is actually one of the only venomous mammals in the world. 

It is illegal to trade slow lorises as pets, and those that are, often have their teeth cruelly ripped out by traders, using either nail clippers, wire cutters or pliers. 

Although many scientists are trying to educate people about the cruelty of keeping the creature as a pet, further understanding of the primate and its conservation is vitally needed.

Research Excellence Awards 2016

Professor Nekaris, is one of the recipients of the University’s Research Excellence Awards. The Awards were launched last year as part of Oxford Brookes’ commitment to supporting research-active academics and in meeting the aims of the Research and Knowledge Exchange Strategy 2016-2020.

The award has allowed Professor Nekaris greater time to dedicate to her research, which is particularly critical given the time sensitive nature of the slow loris’ conservation status and need for urgent action.

Further information on Professor Nekaris’ research on the slow loris is available to read via a dedicated minisite.

Keep reading the University’s news pages for further information on the recipients of the Research Excellence Awards. 

*Loris photo taken by Andrew Walmsley, Little Fireface Project