by Nick Jackson
This Saturday the first of my Slow Loris Series, a run of episodes about a primate called the slow loris, will appear on my podcast, i might go to the beach. The episode is about a trip to see my first loris, and an unfortunate loris brought to the USA in 1889. It also features a slow loris theme song, interviews with loris scholars, and a preview of the next week’s episode, with a very special loris guest, which I’m really excited about.
The slow loris* is a small nocturnal, strepsirrhine (think “lemur-like”) primate that makes up the genus Nycticebus (sounds like nick-tuh-see-bus; roughly translates to “night monkey”).
There are nine known species of slow loris. They live in South and Southeast Asia. They’re arboreal (spend most of their time in trees) and communicate by scents and urine-washing (it is what it sounds like it is). They have big glossy eyes (for seeing in the dark) and little round ears. They live in monogamous pairs and are highly territorial. They are the world’s only venomous primate (yes, they will bite each other), and they are the only primate outside of Madagascar that can go into torpor / hibernation– which seems to be happening more often as they’re forced to higher altitudes due to deforestation. They eat insects and small birds, in addition to their favorite food, tree gums / exudates. They have a highly adapted digestive system. A gut passage time longer than a cow, up to 38 hours, allows them to eat the tough tree gums other animals ignore.
Because slow lorises prefer the edge of the forest, humans have historically overestimated their numbers. They are threatened by environmental destruction (for example, between 1990 and 2005 Indonesia lost more than 28 million hectares of forest) and illegal poaching (because they’re so cute, people want them as a pet).
*I’m not a loris expert, but I’ve tried my best to read scientific journals and put that knowledge into my dumb brain.