Slow loris, a unique animal, known to ordinary Europeans as the “cute little monkey with big eyes”, which they do not know much more about. Slow loris is an example that an animal species, potentially a plant species, that exhibits beauty and cuteness, can be caught up to the edge of extinction due to these characteristics. Slow lorises, like many other species, are threatened by the loss of their natural environment due to deforestation at the expense of fields, plantations, cities, etc. Unlike other species whose survival depends directly on an intact environment, slow lorises are able to adapt to more disturbed, degraded environment and they can even benefit from it. Slow lorises feed on nectar from flowers, various fruits, gum from the trees, and insects. When the landscape becomes more open due to the construction of fields and roads, it probably provides slow lorises with greater availability of easily obtainable food in a smaller area. However, the fact that slow lorises move closer to human dwellings often becomes fatal for them. Due to the demand for them as pets, slow lorises became a good commodity for many poachers who focused on their hunting and sale. Although slow lorises are nocturnal and the only venomous primates in the world, their slow movement and their presence close to humans give them little chances to escape. If we take the example of Indonesia, a poacher who hunts slow lorises at night in the forest can catch up to several dozen individuals per month, depending on the location. Slow lorises will then be sold to the dealer for a price that is around 4.5 USD. The price of a slow loris on the local market then ranges from a few dozens to a hundred of USD, in European countries the price climbs to several hundreds of USD. For hunters themselves, this is not a “jewel” compared to the trade in other species, such as pangolins or rhino horns. However, if you live in one of the small villages near the forest with wild animals that are in demand on the market and you can earn extra money to your salary from farming, then you will probably take this opportunity. This is precisely the case of such “small” Indonesian poachers. Then we can also talk about the chain of illegal trade, where animals are caught in large numbers and transported in huge numbers by a plane or boat to countries around the world. This, of course, represents a significant gain for traders who are higher up in this structure and a disaster for entire animal populations. I often come across the opinion that it is a kind of livelihood thanks to which people have something to eat. However, we must realize that, for example, in the case of slow lorises, and not only slow lorises, for the local people it’s really not a question of survival but of the possibility to earn extra money. The “small” poachers themselves often do not even know that this is a protected animal and that they are doing something illegal. Slow lorises are often among animals that they shoot as pests in their fields. Slow lorises don’t appear much on the menu, because according to the locals, there is a little meat on them and it is rather firm and hard to chew. Slow lorises are also used in so-called black magic. In Indonesia, they believe that if you throw the bones of slow lorises on someone’s doorstep, you will curse them. And how do we, Europeans living on the other side of the world, fit into this story? Unfortunately, by creating the demand and being able to pay extra for nice “exotic” things. So not only do we take pictures on our travels with “monkeys on a leash or on a shoulder”, but we are willing to find some “cute” animal on the Internet. Because everyone has a dog and a cat, it has already become boring, so why not buy a slow loris... Behind this “innocent” shopping, we hardly see the story of a slow loris caught in the forest, transported somewhere (if it was lucky and survived this transport in terrible conditions), having its teeth pulled out and being one of the 10% “lucky” survivors (in this case it is hard to say if “lucky” is an appropriate word) to consequently get into some people’s homes. There, such a slow loris is forced to be active during the day (even though it is a nocturnal animal), eating inappropriate food and being “tickled” to entertain the whole family. Slow lorises have brachial glands in their elbows which produce a toxin, and the lifting of their front limbs which looks like a positive reaction to tickling is just a manifestation of the defence against predators, during which they are trying to show their brachial glands and intimidate the predator. Sad, isn’t it? And there are lots of such stories. But I will add a positive story to this topic about how our program was established to combat the illegal trade in endangered species in Indonesia and to protect the slow lorises in Indonesia, on the island of Sumatra.
Our program, The Kukang Rescue Program, was established in 2014 in response to the trafficking in slow lorises, in this case on the island of Sumatra. The idea was born in the head of František Příbrský, the current director of the program. We founded this program together. At that time, slow lorises were common in local markets, where they were offered for sale, despite their status as an absolutely protected species and despite police officers passing by. Law enforcement in Indonesia is insufficient, and when you add to this fact that there is no specialized facility for confiscated animals to be placed in and given adequate care, the trade is open. We decided to change this and therefore built a rescue and rehabilitation centre for slow lorises in north Sumatra. However, the centre alone would not be enough, it is necessary to cooperate with local authorities, which are responsible for enforcing laws for nature protection. But this seemingly simple task is becoming a bureaucratic trap in these countries, which we are still struggling with. An interesting fact: In Indonesia, holding, selling or killing a slow loris is punishable by up to 5 years in prison or a fine of 9,000 USD. But these are just numbers on paper. Awareness, and therefore education, is a necessary precondition for the next generations of local people to think differently and be able to preserve this (our) natural wealth. That is why we run an English-Environmental School as part of our program, organize lectures, campaigns, work with local farmers, etc. I am proud to have the strong and capable Indonesian team, without which we would not be able to carry out all these activities at all. But we still have a lot of work to do. Nevertheless, I believe that this effort is worth it. I believe that our work includes not only helping to prevent the extinction of another animal species, but also changing the approach to our planet, preserving its unique biodiversity, so important for the survival of all, including us humans. And each of us can help with that.
Much more information about our program and all our activities and actions can be found on our websites www.kukang.org, www.kukang-coffee.org and social networks.