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Just a few years ago the slow loris was an obscure creature that only experts in primatology knew about.
When YouTube footage of this wild animal being tickled in a Russian flat appeared, however, the slow loris became an instant celebrity, with over 12 million online views. As someone who has dedicated her time to studying this species, you might think that I'd be 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. A large number of the people who watched the infamous YouTube clip commented to say that the slow loris is "so cute", and declared "I want one".
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 poisonous mammals in the world. Its toxin can cause death in humans through anaphylactic shock. Unknowing humans should stay clear of the toxin, which is released from near its elbows. When threatened, the loris takes the toxin into its mouth and mixes it with saliva.
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, it remains an uphill battle. There is still so much we can learn about this vulnerable primate that will help with our understanding and aid primate conservation in this area.
If you are interested in the slow loris, I urge you to help us to increase our understanding of this fascinating but under-threat creature by donating via our dedicated fundraising pages.
Your support would provide support to a range of activities to keep the slow loris in the wild where they belong. This will include:
I hope that you find these pages interesting and informative in providing greater awareness of the slow loris and its battle to survive extinction.
Professor Anna Nekaris, Reader in Primate Conservation and Anthropology and Course Leader in Primate Conservation, Oxford Brookes University.