The fluffball of Southeast Asia

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Ricardo Golac, Staff Writer

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This column is part of a series where the Talon posts highly subjective reviews of animals.

What if I told you that one of the cutest animals on the face of the planet was a nocturnal and venomous badass? Behold the fearsome Slow Loris, the killer primate that hails from the lush forests of south and southeast Asia .

Slow Lorises are small mammals with large round heads, large eyes, narrow snouts, and distinctive color patterns that vary according to species. Their arms and legs are almost equal in length and their spine allows them twist more than 180 degrees, giving them more dexterity when climbing trees. Their hands and feet have pincer-like grip, allowing them to hang from branches for extended periods of time.

The Slow Loris is a strepsirrhine, which is a suborder of primates that includes lemurs. Scientific studies of Slow Lorises have been inconclusive because their evolutionary history is uncertain and any attempt to date their DNA have always given inconsistent results.

Perhaps what the Slow Loris is most famous for is the title as being the only venomous primate in the world. Lorises have poison glands on their elbows; when threatened they will raise their arms, lick their elbows to mix their saliva with the poison, and then bite the enemy. The toxin causes the victim to experience excruciating pain or even go into fatal anaphylactic shock. The toxin is also similar in composition to cat dander, making it even more detrimental to those with allergies. The lorises’ venomous capabilities are an effective deterrent, and the toxin is also applied to the fur during grooming as a form of protection for their babies.

Little is known about their social structure apart from the fact that they communicate by scent marking with urine. Lorises are nocturnal and usually live alone or in small packs. In Indonesia, slow lorises are called malu malu or “shy one” because they freeze and cover their face when spotted. When cornered, they adopt a defensive posture by curling up in a ball and lunging at predators. They have also been known to make a low buzzing hiss or growl when disturbed. Slow Loris males have been known to be highly territorial and don’t shy away from trying to bite each other to death.

Although the Slow Loris is cute, it should never kept as a pet. Slow Lorises are one of the most popular animals in illegal wildlife trading, especially in Indonesia. The Slow Loris is an endangered species that is commonly poached and defanged. Numerous Youtube videos have popped up on the internet showing Slow Lorises in captivity being tickled, which actually feels quite uncomfortable for them. The Lorises specific nutritional needs and nocturnal lifestyle are never met when they are sold as pets resulting in malnourishment.

Pros:

  • Undeniably cute
  • Venomous
  • Worth a lot on the black market

Cons:

  • They’re “Slow,” hence their name.
  • They make horrible pets.
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