The slow loris is one of the cutest wild animals to have recently featured across social media channels. And last night I saw a wide-eyed loris on my Instagram feed.
The picture was of a smiling traveller holding a slow loris while holidaying on a beach in Thailand.
Slow loris’ are cute – I get it
You believe your tourism dollars are helping with their upkeep – I get it
You are unaware of the dangers in supporting the wildlife trade – I get it
Your picture is receiving loads of likes and comments – I get it
But if you post your picture and then write “so I did a not so super responsible tourist thing today.”
I DON’T GET IT.
This is not about shaming the said Instagrammer because she did me a favour. She sparked my anger and curiosity. She got me looking into the slow loris tourism and pet trade. She got me motivated to write this post. She may help more people avoid this practice (in a roundabout way).
So how is the cute-curse impacting the slow loris?
Well, let’s start with the ubiquitous Google search.
As I start typing ‘slow loris’ the popular search function kicks in and offers up some choices. The second choice is ‘slow loris pet’ and the fourth is ‘slow loris tickle’. I won’t be giving props to that tickle video and the likelihood is that we have all seen it anyway. Google search then goes on to recommend ‘what do slow loris’ eat’ and other suggestions relating to pet care.
Here in lies the first problem. The slow loris popularity and extreme cuteness have sparked an illegal international pet trade to places like Japan, US and Europe.
Now the strange thing is that the slow loris should make for the worst pet ever. They are nocturnal. They have a toxic bite. They live in the cool shade of the rainforest. They smell.
This is where the cruel truth emerges in the abduction and ‘modification’ of slow loris’ to make them suitable for tourism and the pet trade. Last year International Animal Rescue (IAR) released the below video campaign exposing the abhorrent practices.
It’s pleasing to see that this video has more Youtube views than the tickle loris video.
So what can you do to help save the slow loris?
I’m a big fan of using the mammoth reach and community sway of social media and recommend the advice from Prof Nekaris at Nocturama and IAR. I have adapted it to also include other social media channels.
- Please don’t ‘like’ or ‘thumbs up’ the tickle video.
- Thumbs down such videos and photos which appear on other social media feeds.
- Kindly ask the uploader to remove their video or photo and provide links to the above websites as evidence.
- Do not be angry and cruel to uploaders as they may not understand why loris videos or selfie photos are cruel.
- Report the practice to the local police, your ambassador and to a local newspaper. (According to the Phuket News, the Phuket authorities welcome the heads up if such practices are back in effect.
- You can advise the social media moderators that you think the photo or video is inappropriate and constitutes as animal abuse.
Much has been written about this topic following Rhianna’s selfie with a slow loris in 2013, after the slow loris tickle and umbrella videos, and most recently the latest abuse of slow loris’ on Ko Samui.
However, I want to share it again.
According to the Duke University’s online course (we are currently enrolled in): Innovation and Design for Global Grand Challenges it took over 10 years of consistent campaigning to see a reduction of shark fin soup consumption. This was due to multiple wildlife agencies educating the public about the practice; celebrity support and ultimately acknowledgement that there was a link between government corruption and such fishing practices. This led to a ban of shark fin soup from all Chinese government banquet menus.
The slow loris is critically endangered and while changing community beliefs about medicinal properties of the slow loris may take some time, the reduction of the pet trade and wildlife tourism is something we can impact. All it may take to reverse the cute-curse is the power from a click (or non-click).
Feature Photo: Feeding Slow Loris, Duke Lemur Centre
Slow loris’ can be found in Southeast Asia, Philippines, Bangladesh and Northeast India. Have you seen one? What do you think of the social media recommendations and what other tips do you have for travellers if they encounter an animal tout?