There are currently 8 species of lorises identified Throughout Asia and Southeast Asia. In Vietnam we have two species, the Pygmy loris and Bengal slow loris.
You may first know about loris as a cute, furry and tiny animal whose giant, glistening eyes assure you of their calmness and hospitality. Maybe you have also seen people keeping loris as a pet. But be aware that not only is this illegal, it is also cruelty to these sensitive animals.
It is very unlikely that any pet loris you may encounter is legal.
Lorises belong to a family of primates known as Lorisidae, in which there are 9 genera and over 25 species. The family includes the lorises of Asia, and the galagos and pottos of Africa. The 8 species of loris currently recognized range across India, Sri Lanka, the South east Asian mainland up to southern China, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Like every other primate a loris' fingers and toes have nails although their second toe has a claw. This characteristics allows the loris to climb trees quite skillfully despite their slow movement. However, they don't prefer to travel on the ground and they need a closed tree canopy for an easy walk. Lorises love to eat insects, at the EPRC, our keepers frequently catch stick insects or grasshoppers and feed them to our lorises as additional nutrients to fruits. Lorises also love to eat tree sap for which they can forage themselves by drilling holes into tree bark and extract the tree sap with their relatively sharp teeth. However, our keepers always prepare in advance drilled tree branches and place them inside the cage for our lorises.
In the wild, the loris is known as a great example of camouflage before their color-blind carnivorous predators. Indeed, red and green color is indistinguishable to the carnivores, which means the orange fur color of the loris appears the same as tree leaves to them. Their eyes are big which reflect eyeshine and give them good vision at night.
Lorises communicates with hormones and high-pitched sounds which humans cannot hear. In the EPRC, we tend to put lorises into separate cages because they prefer to live solitary.
It is a local belief here in Cuc Phuong, Ninh Binh where EPRC is located, that bringing a loris home will curse the family with bad luck. It is indeed bad luck for anyone who dares to underestimate a loris and tickle or threaten them. But there are still poeple who don't believe in that. Before lorises are sold as a pet, traders can have their teeth removed by clippers to avoid being bitten by them.
Lorises freeze when there is a threat. That makes it easy for hunters and poachers to catch them. Their only real defence is a gland inside their upper arm that produces poison when needed. Lorises lick the gland mixing the poison with saliva which will cause a painful bite, even death, to its victim. The loris is one of only a few mammals, and the only primate in the world, that is poisonous.
Lorises are protected across their range, and subject to international trade restrictions, however the illegal trade in lorises for medicine and pets continues to put massive pressure on wild populations.