Under my umbrella ella ella….video helps to fuel pet trade

Posted on March 16, 2011

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Slow lorises like this Sunda Slow Loris juvenile (Nycticebus coucang) have their teeth forcibly removed by animal traffickers in the open-air "bird markets" of Indonesia.

All this week the Northerner has complained about how expensive dental treatment is in this country. He’s gone to several surgeries and one troublesome tooth could cost him as much as £1,700 to have treatment on. Price aside, none of us, myself included like going to the dentist. Maybe it’s the preempted fear of pain before we even sit in the dreaded chair. But imagine how you’d feel if you had no say whether you wanted the treatment and no option of having anaesthetic.

I make no apologies of uploading this horrific image, if it looks cruel, that’s because it is. Sadly despite images like this being made public, it still doesn’t stop some people from ordering endangered species, like this slow loris as pets.

Forcibly removing the animal’s teeth is done to either convince buyers that it is suitable as a child’s pet or to make people think the animal is an infant. This photo was taken by Dr. Karmele Llano Sánchez of the International Animal Rescue (IAR).

Slow lorises (Nycticebus coucang) are from the suborder Prosimii, which means “before apes”. Prosimians are said to be more primitive that other primates because of some anatomical characteristics. Lorises are small and nocturnal. They have a very powerful grasp – special blood vessel storage channels in their hands and feet enable them to contract their muscles and hold tightly to branches for hours –  seemingly without pain or feeling tired. It’s this remarkable feature that keeps them hidden from predators during the day.

A new video uploaded at the beginning of this month onto You Tube shows a slow loris holding an umbrella in a pet store. It’s been viewed nearly two million times. And those who endorse this type of behaviour are merely encouraging the illegal and cruel pet trade.

The attraction in wanting to own a slow loris as a pet is obvious. They are exceptionally adorable, sporting huge eyes and a curious demeanor. Dr. Anna Nekaris, an anthropologist who specialises in slow loris research at Oxford Brookes University in the UK, told the conservation and science website mongabay.com in 2009 that people are also drawn to them because “they are docile to hold.”

However, she said that the loris willingness to be held is not because they are comfortable but rather “it is part of their defence mechanism—to be still and silent” when they feel threatened. According to Nekaris, the pet trade for slow lorises is largest in Asia, mostly Japan and China.

She said: “There is also a big misconception on [YouTube] and a lot of viewers think it’s perfectly legal to have them as pets. Japan is a massive player and most hosts on YouTube with a pet slow loris are based there.” Slow lorises sell in Japan for $1,500 to $4,500.

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