Wednesday, March 13, 2013

[Primatology • 2013] Moolah, Misfortune or Spinsterhood? The Plight of the Slender Loris Loris lydekkerianus in Southern India


Slender Loris Loris lydekkerianus 

Photographers threatening the already-maligned slender loris 

Caught in a beam of torchlight, the eyes of the slender loris reflect back a striking glow. In an effort to better understand these shy, nocturnal primates, a team of researchers set out to the Western Ghats of India. The resulting paper: Moolah, Misfortune or Spinsterhood? The Plight of the Slender Loris (Loris lydekkerianus) in Southern India was published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa in January of 2013. Forest walks and interviews with the Kani people, who live in close proximity to the lorises, supported evidence of a surprising new threat to the lorises: photographers.

Endemic to both the Eastern and Western Ghats, the gray slender loris is represented by two subspecies, Loris lydekkerianus lydekkerianus and Loris lydekkerianus malabaricus. These insectivorous animals are distributed throughout wet evergreen forests, particularly in scrub forests and plantations and occur in greatest abundance in disturbed areas. Both subspecies are listed as a Least Concern Species by the IUCN Red List, and protected under the Indian Wildlife Act.


Despite their protected status the soft and wide-eyed loris, popularized by viral YouTube videos and Internet photos, has become a major commodity in the illegal pet trade. But, their live insect diet makes caring for them difficult and incredibly sensitive lorises do not fare well in captivity. Lorises are also surrounded by myth and folklore. Some lorises are captured for their purported medicinal properties, though this is becoming less common. Among the Kani people, at least, the loris is seen as a bad omen; an unmarried woman who glances at the animal is doomed to life-long spinsterhood, and a loris sighting in the forest predicts bad luck for the harvest of non-timber forest products.
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Kanagavel, A., Sinclair, C., Rajkumar, S., Raghave R. 2013. Moolah, Misfortune or Spinsterhood? The Plight of the Slender Loris (Loris lydekkerianus) in Southern India. Journal of Threatneed Taxa. 3585-3588.

Photographers threatening the already-maligned slender loris 

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