Category: Research


WHALES AHOY


by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) April 18, 2014

Japan said Friday it would redesign its controversial Antarctic whaling mission in a bid to make it more scientific, after a United Nations court ruled it was a commercial hunt masquerading as research.

The bullish response, which could see harpoon ships back in the Southern Ocean next year, sets Tokyo back on a collision course with environmentalists.

Campaigners had hailed the decision by the International Court of Justice, with hopes that it might herald the end of a practice they view as barbaric.

“We will carry out extensive studies in cooperation with ministries concerned to submit a new research programme by this autumn to the International Whaling Commission (IWC), reflecting the criteria laid out in the verdict,” said Yoshimasa Hayashi, minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

Japan, a member of the IWC, has hunted whales under a loophole allowing for lethal research. It has always maintained that it was intending to prove the whale population was large enough to sustain commercial hunting.

But it never hid the fact that the by-product of whale meat made its way onto menus.

“The verdict confirmed that the (IWC moratorium) is partly aimed at sustainable use of whale resources.

“Following this, our country will firmly maintain its basic policy of conducting whaling for research, on the basis of international law and scientific foundations, to collect scientific data necessary for the regulation of whale resources, and aim for resumption of commercial whaling.”

Hayashi, who had met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe earlier in the day, confirmed a previous announcement that the 2014-15 hunt in the Southern Ocean would not go ahead.

Last month’s court ruling does not apply to Japan’s two other whaling programmes: a “research” hunt in coastal waters and in the northwestern Pacific, and a much smaller programme that operates along the coast, which is not subject to the international ban.

 

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SBS News

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    (AP)
   
Hundreds of Japanese officials and pro-whaling lobbyists have eaten whale in defiance of a international court ruling that ordered the country to stop its Antarctic whaling program.
By

SBS with AAP
UPDATED 2:05 PM – 16 Apr 2014

The 26th whale meat tasting event in Tokyo was hosted near the nation’s parliament and was attended by lawmakers, officials and pro-whaling lobbyists.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told attendees that the country must protect its whale-eating culture.

“[Japan] has a policy of harvesting and sustainably using the protein source from the ocean, and that is unshakable,” Associated Press quoted Mr Hayashi as saying.

Meanwhile, a lower house MP criticised the arguments against whaling as emotional and not based on reason.

“Japan’s whaling is based on scientific reasons, while counterarguments by anti-whaling groups are emotional, saying they are against the hunts because whales are cute or smart,” the Japan Times reported Shunichi Suzuki of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party as saying.

 

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Japan ‘will continue whaling in Pacific’

Updated: 15:21, Friday April 18, 2014

Japan 'will continue whaling in Pacific'

Japan has decided to continue its whaling program in the Pacific Ocean, reports say, despite losing a United Nations court case on its other “research” hunt in the Antarctic.

If confirmed, the move will likely spark anger among environmentalists who hailed a ruling in March by the UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) that Tokyo’s hunt in the Southern Ocean was a commercial activity disguised as science.

Japan has exploited a loophole in a 1986 moratorium that allowed it to conduct lethal research on the mammals, but has openly admitted their meat makes its way onto dinner tables.

Campaigners urged Tokyo to follow the spirit of the ruling, and not just its letter, which specifically referred to Japan’s hunt in the Antarctic, not its other research scheme in the northwest Pacific or its smaller coastal program.

But after the ICJ verdict, a government review has said the Pacific hunt should press ahead, public broadcaster NHK and Kyodo News Agency reported on Friday.

The review suggests the Pacific mission should reduce its catch and focus more on carrying out research that does not involve catching whales.

A spokesman for the fisheries agency said he was unable to comment.

 

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While animal-free experimentation alternatives do exist and are being increasingly advocated for, testing on animals is still prevalent. According to the Humane Society of the United States, more than 25 million vertebrate animals, from dogs and cats to rats and mice, are used in research, testing, and education in the U.S. every year.

Of these 25 million or so, 200,000 of them are rabbits, as the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has reported in filings.

Most rabbits are used in toxicity testing, such as the painful Draize eye and skin irritancy tests during which a rabbit is “locked into full-body restraints to prevent them from touching eye or skin sores,” the American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS) reports.

Rabbits are also known to be used to test pyrogenicity, the ability of a product to induce a fever, and for development or embryotoxcity tests, which aim to determine “the danger that a product will harm a pregnant female of developing fetus,” AAVS explains.

Despite all their service to testing facilities, rabbits rarely receive any kindness in laboratories. AAVS states that the lab environment is “particularly noxious to rabbits, causing great stress, weakening their immune systems, and making them more prone to illness.”

What’s more, these rabbits seldom leave their cages, except for testing procedures, and are often never provided with enrichment or any sort of comfort.

Beagle Freedom Project, a rescue, foster, and adoption program with the nonprofit Animal Rescue, Media and Education (ARME) based in Los Angeles, Calif., has taken in and cared for a number of lab rabbits over the years through retirement agreements with laboratories.

Kevin Chase, Beagle Freedom Project’s director of operations, tells OGP that they have even sent letters to every U.S. cosmetics and household product company that still uses animals for testing, asking that they surrender their research animals after terminating their studies to allow them to be put up for adoption.

Two Rescued Rabbits Finally Step Outside After Life in a Lab Cage (PHOTOS)Beagle Freedom Project

It was this type of agreement that allowed Beagle Freedom Project to rescue rabbits, Bun and Honey. They are just two of eight rabbits who the project has saved over the last 18 months.

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Study: Dogs Understand How We’re Feeling

By George Putic – Researchers in Hungary have confirmed something many dog owners have long suspected: that canines understand our feelings.

Using a Magnetic Resonance Scanner, or MRI, scientists found that when it comes to emotions, dogs’ brains are similar to those of humans.Dogs are usually not relaxed in a lab environment, but with a little petting and lots of treats they can be trained to sit still even in an MRI scanner. That’s how researchers in Hungary’s ELTE University were able to get images of their brains at work.

Research fellow Attila Andics says it helped them better understand the dogs’ relationship with humans.

“We have known for a long time that dogs and humans share similar social environment, but now our results show that dogs and humans also have similar brain mechanisms to process social information,” said Andics.

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FILE - A Cheetah cub is examined by veterinary staff during a health check in its enclosure at Chester Zoo in northern England, July 31, 2013.

FILE – A Cheetah cub is examined by veterinary staff during a health check in its enclosure at Chester Zoo in northern England, July 31, 2013.

Lisa Bryant

The two-day old kitten Dr. Jean-Yves Routier is examining has a big bandage wrapped around its middle. It was injured at birth, but it will survive.

The fate is less certain for some of the bigger cats the French veterinarian treats. When he is not at his clinic in the Paris suburb of Noisy le Grand, Routier is in Africa. He uses groundbreaking reproductive techniques to boost the numbers of cheetahs, lions and other game animals – and to diversify their gene pool.

The challenge, Routier said, is how to manage what he calls micro-populations – small populations of wild animals that are threatened, some to the verge of extinction. Zoos use artificial insemination and other techniques to induce pregnancy in captive animals. But that, he says, it does not save threatened species in the wild.

In 2002, Routier founded a nongovernmental organization called CRESAM. That stands for Conservation and Reproduction of Endangered Wild Species. He and his international team of highly specialized vets work with about 20 different species of carnivores in France and overseas. Many are big cats like cheetahs, living in private game parks. CRESAM is one of the rare organizations using artificial reproduction techniques outside of zoos.

A video on CRESAM’s website shows Routier shooting a cheetah with a tranquillizer gun. Once down, the vets take blood samples of the animal. They have to work quickly. Within a few minutes, it will be back on its feet.

Cheetahs once roamed large chunks of Africa and Asia. But their numbers have plummeted from about 100,000 a century ago, to only about 7,000 to 15,000 today. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists cheetahs in general as a vulnerable species. Some subspecies are considered critically endangered.  Luke Hunter, president of the global wildcat conservation organization Panthera, said big cats face a basic threat: competing with humans for space.

“The issue becomes the whole suite of threats that humans bring into landscapes in which large cats exist, which includes direct hunting of large cats for their furs or their bones or other things that are considered valuable for certain cultures. [Also] hunting and persecution of cats because they’re considered dangerous, and just wiping out habitats and prey that big cats need,” Hunter stated.

 

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Zoo officials kill six lions, including four cubs

Six lions killed at popular zoo in BritainPhoto by Morne de Klerk/Getty Images

A popular wildlife safari park in Britain is on the receiving end of public outcry after word got out that six lions in their care have been destroyed, reported Sunday’s publication of the Daily Mail.

A lion, lioness and four cubs were destroyed at the Longleat Safari Park last month.

Officials at the zoo blame the killings on an increase in pregnancies at the park. On Sunday, the Longleat Safari Park posted this statement on their Facebook page:

In regards to the lions, there has been a large increase in pregnancies, resulting in a 40 per cent increase in population. This has unfortunately resulted in excessive violent behaviour, putting 21 of them at risk.

The park added:

Longleat takes the utmost care in trying to protect the welfare and safety of all our animals.

The explanation has fallen flat with many individuals.

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Outrage as lioness and cubs who were the pride of Longleat are put down leaving staff in tears

  • Henry the lion, Louisa the lioness and four cubs were killed last month
  • Longleat bosses claimed the lions were becoming violent and dangerous
  • Employees wept when they heard what had become of the beloved animals

By Martin Delgado and Nick Constable

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Six lions at Longleat Safari Park have been put down, triggering  outrage among staff who claim there was no obvious reason for the animals to be killed.

An adult male called Henry, a lioness named Louisa and four of her cubs were all put to death last month in an operation supervised by vets.

Bosses at the safari park on the Marquess of Bath’s Wiltshire estate insist the decision was taken because of ‘health risks’ after a population increase led to violent behaviour.

At play: Lions and cubs, left, from the pride that was culled by vets at Longleat, pictured three weeks

At play: Lions and cubs, left, from the pride that was culled by vets at Longleat, pictured three weeks

But former workers in the lion reserve have questioned whether the animals should have been destroyed, and revealed that some employees were in tears when they found out what had happened.

The lions are one of the biggest attractions at Longleat, which opened in 1966 as Britain’s first wildlife safari park.

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Arctic polar bears may be adjusting their eating habits as their sea ice habitat melts and the furry white predators stand to lose the floating platform they depend on to hunt seals, their primary food. According to researchers, however, the bears are displaying flexible eating habits as their world changes around them.

Indeed, scientific studies indicate polar bear populations are falling as the sea ice disappears earlier each spring and forms later in the fall. But a series of papers based on analysis of polar bear poop released over the past several months indicate that at least some of the bears are finding food to eat when they come ashore, ranging from bird eggs and caribou to grass seeds and berries.

“What our results suggest is that polar bears have flexible foraging strategies,” Linda Gormezano, a biologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and a co-author of several of the papers, told NBC News.

Quinoa, a dog, finds polar bear scat

Robert Rockwell / American Museum of Natural History
Quinoa, a Dutch shepherd who was trained to sniff out polar bear scat, sits next to find. Analysis of the polar bear scat reveals the animals have a flexible foraging strategy.

The results stem from research in western Hudson Bay, near Chruchill, Manitoba, Canada, which is in the southern extent of polar bear habitat and serves as a harbinger of what the animals are likely to face throughout their Arctic range as the climate continues to warm and sea ice breaks up earlier and earlier each spring.

The flexible foraging strategy of polar bears “means that there may be more to this picture in terms of how polar bears will adjust to changing ice conditions” than indicated by models based on the spring breakup date of the sea ice and thus their access to seals, Gormezano said.

She added that nobody knows for sure how well polar bears will adapt to the changing food supply, but a big step toward an answer is to study what they eat on land “rather than assume that they may just be fasting.”

Let them eat car parts
In addition to berries, birds and eggs, Andrew Derocher, a University of Alberta polar bear biologist who was not involved with the recent studies, said people have seen a polar bear drink hydraulic fluid as it was drained out of a forklift, chomp the seats of snow machines, and eat lead acid batteries.

“Polar bears will eat anything,” he told NBC News. “The question is: Does is it do them any good? And everything we can see from what bears eat when they are on land is it has a very, very minimal energetic return relative to the cost.”

Gormezano said the plants found in any given pile of poop were usually the same, suggesting the bears eat whatever they find in their immediate surroundings — they don’t spend a lot energy searching for food. Mothers and cubs, who wander farthest inland, feast on berries found there. On the coast, where adult males linger, the poop is predominantly shoreline grass seeds.

Animal remains, however, showed no pattern, which fits with a landscape rich with nesting birds and caribou and polar bears opportunistically eating whatever crosses their path, according to a paper Gormenzano and colleague Robert Rockwell published in BMC Ecology in December 2013.

In a paper published in Polar Biology in May 2013, the researchers report observations of polar bears chasing and capturing snow geese with the efficiency of a skilled hunter — snagging one right after the other.

Polar bear eats a caribou

Robert Rockwell / American Museum of Natural History
A polar bear eats a caribou on land. Recent studies suggest polar bears have a flexible foraging strategy, which help them survive as they come ashore earlier due to melting Arctic sea ice.

“Previously, it had been thought that that would not be a very energetically profitable thing for a polar bear to do because they expend more energy in the chase than they get from consuming the food,” Gormezano noted.

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Nov 5, 2013 by Sci-News.com

Using camera traps, British biologists have captured photographs of the world’s least known cat, the bay cat (Pardofelis badia).

The Bay Cat, Pardofelis badia. Image credit: Oliver Wearn.

The Bay Cat, Pardofelis badia. Image credit: Oliver Wearn.

The mysterious bay cat, also known as the Bornean cat, is a wild cat endemic to the Indonesian island of Borneo. Adults grow as long as 50-60 cm with a 30 – 40 cm long tail, and can weigh over 3.5 kg.

Until now, this species had been recorded on camera traps just a handful of times in Borneo and was only photographed in the wild for the first time in 2003.

But more images of this animal have been captured than ever before, together with evidence of four other wild cat species – the Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi), leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis), flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps) and marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata).

“We discovered that randomly placed cameras have a big influence on the species recorded,” explained Dr Oliver Wearn from both Zoological Society of London and Imperial College London, who is a lead author of the paper published in the open-access journal PLoS ONE.

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Borneo bay cat photographed in heavily logged region

Extremely rare sighting raises hopes that larger mammals are more able to survive in logged areas than previously thought

Borneo bay cat
The Borneo bay cat, as captured by the Safe tropical forest conservation project. Photograph: Oliver Wearn/Safe project

One of the world’s most elusive wild cats has been captured on camera in a heavily logged area of Borneo rainforest together with four other endangered species, suggesting that some wildlife can survive in highly disturbed forests.

The Bornean bay cat (Pardofelis badia) has been recorded on camera traps on just a handful of occasions to date and was only photographed in the wild for the first time in southern Sarawak in 2003. The cat, extremely secretive and similar in size to a large domestic cat with a long tail and either a reddish or grey coat, had been classified as extinct until new images taken in Malaysian Borneo in 2009 and 2010 gave fresh hope for its survival.

Scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Imperial College London have captured more a dozen images of this animal following a study in Kalabakan forest reserve, Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, together with evidence of four other wild cat species in a heavily logged area of forest where they were not expected to thrive.

Dr Robert Ewers of the department of life sciences at Imperial College London, who leads the Safe tropical forest conservation project in Borneo, said the discovery of the cats was evidence that large species can survive in commercially logged forests: “We were completely surprised to see so many bay cats at these sites in Borneo where natural forests have been so heavily logged for the timber trade. Conservationists used to assume that very few wild animals could live in logged forest, but we now know this land can be home for many endangered species.”

The area is only one of four forest areas in all of Borneo – the third largest island in the world and shared between Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia – that has so far been reported to contain all five species, including the Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi), leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis), flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps) and marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata).

 

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Published on Mar 4, 2013

“Desertification is a fancy word for land that is turning to desert,” begins Allan Savory in this quietly powerful talk. And terrifyingly, it’s happening to about two-thirds of the world’s grasslands, accelerating climate change and causing traditional grazing societies to descend into social chaos. Savory has devoted his life to stopping it. He now believes — and his work so far shows — that a surprising factor can protect grasslands and even reclaim degraded land that was once desert.

TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes (or less). Look for talks on Technology, Entertainment and Design — plus science, business, global issues, the arts and much more.
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Could cows and sheep halt climate change and tackle rural poverty?

Agriculture is destructive, but doesn’t have to be. Livestock could help tackle climate change, desertification and rural poverty

Desertification in China

A herder leads her sheep in search of grazing grounds in Inner Mongolia, which is fighting severe desertification. Photograph: How Hwee Young/EPA

Holistic management, with its counterintuitive claim that more, rather than fewer, cattle can improve the land, has been around for decades – a kind of perennial cattleman’s quarrel, and a thorn in the hide of ranchers and anti-ranchers alike.

The use of livestock as a tool for restoration has been scoffed at by scientists, reviled by vegetarians and those who blame cows for climate change, and a flashpoint for tension over how to conserve land in the American West.

Reviving grasslands

But that was before Allan Savory, who developed holistic management, won the 2010 Buckminster Fuller Challenge for a programme with “significant potential to solve one of humanity’s most pressing problems.” And before governmental agencies such as USAID and large NGOs like the Nature Conservancy teamed up with the Savory Institute on international projects after seeing the benefits on the ground. And, in an era when one viral video makes the difference between anonymity and renown, before Savory’s TED talk, How to Green the Desert and Reverse Climate Change, flew round the Internet with some 2m views.

At the end of June, I attended the first Savory Institute International Conference, Transforming Landscapes for Global Impact, in Boulder, Colorado. This two-day event, attended by 300 ranchers, scholars and investors from around the world, showed that holistic management is now launched as a global movement – one that’s positioned itself as a vehicle for addressing seemingly intractable problems of climate change, desertification, and rural poverty.

The impetus is to bolster the deployment of holistic planned grazing to revive the grasslands of the world. Grasslands, also known as prairie, savanna, steppes or pampas, represent 40% of the world’s land surface. Much of this land is desertifying, or losing the capacity to sustain life; more than 10m hectares of productive land succumb to desertification every year.

Deploying cows, sheep and yaks to fight desertification

Since I began exploring soil as a crucible for our many overlapping ecological and economic crises – and for solutions – I’ve been intrigued by holistic management’s use of the humble cow, sheep, goat or, more exotically, camel or yak to remake the land. The results are most dramatic on “brittle” landscapes, that are dry much of the year and need to sustain moisture from one rainy season to the next.

Savory’s insight is that grasslands and ungulates evolved together, so that the land needs animals in the same way that animals need the land. All domestic animals have an impact on land; this impact can be positive or negative, depending on how they are managed. Land can be overgrazed but it can also be undergrazed, meaning that it suffers from lack of animal impact.

This notion surprises many people, who assume that leaving land alone is always better. But when, say, cattle are moved in a planned way, their behaviour kickstarts key biological processes that might have stalled, a situation that could lead to desertification.

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By: Alexander Holmgren

August 01, 2013

A skipper butterfly.  Photo by Muhammad Mahdi Karim and reproduced under the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2.
A skipper butterfly. Photo by Muhammad Mahdi Karim and reproduced under the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2.

 

Conservationist’s faced a crushing blow last month as two butterfly species native to Florida were declared extinct.

“Occasionally, these types of butterflies disappear for long periods of time but are rediscovered in another location,” said Larry Williams, U.S. Fish and Wildlife state supervisor for ecological services. We think it’s apparent now these two species are extinct.”

Neither species has been seen in any environment for at least nine years, the latter of the two not being seen since 2000. This calamity is only made worse by the fact that so much could have been done in order to save these creatures. The first species, the Zestos skipper butterfly (Epargyreus zestos oberon), had strong bodies with large black eyes and large wings that were adorned with spots that looked like eyes. While the Zestos skipper was visibly declining in its environment, the subspecies was denied access to the U.S.’s Endangered Species Act (ESA) because of the confusion between it and other skipper species in the Bahamas. In the end, what was thought to be a bountiful reserve in the Bahamas proved to be a completely different species. By the time the mistake was realized it proved too late.

The Rockland grass skipper butterfly (Hesperia meskei pinocayo), an amber golden insect with club like antenna and black eyes, was similarly thought to be making a comeback as the species that had not been seen since the 80’s was spotted back in 2000. But is now believed extinct.

The extinction of these animals “serves as a wake-up call that we really need to intensify our efforts to save other imperiled butterflies,” according to Williams.

Both species vanished almost overnight as conservationists and scientists realized that the abundant populations of these species simply did not exist.

 

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com
July 25, 2013

It all started with a video: in 2009 a Russian man uploaded a video of himself tickling his exotic pet (a pygmy slow loris) from Vietnam onto the hugely popular site YouTube. Since then the video has been viewed over half a million times. But a new study in the open source journal in PLoS ONE, finds that such YouTube videos have helped fuel a cruel, illegal trade that is putting some of the world’s least-known primates at risk of extinction. Lorises are small, shy, and nocturnal primates that inhabit the forests of tropical Asia, but the existence of all eight species is currently imperiled by a booming illegal pet trade that has been aided by videos of lorises being tickled, holding tiny umbrellas, or doing other seemingly cute (but wholly unnatural) things.

“In Indonesia alone, where six species of loris occur, a minimum of 15,000 lorises are trafficked each year; this does not count the numbers that die before making it to markets,” lead author Anna Nekaris, with Oxford Brookes University and founder of the slow loris-organization Little Fireface Project, told mongabay.com. “In Indochina, no figures are available, but slow lorises have often been the most frequently encountered mammal in markets. In both regions, however, sellers report declines, saying they are ‘finished’ in the wild.”

Given the popularity of YouTube videos showing illegal pet lorises, Nekaris and her team decided to analyze how people responded to the videos through viewer comments. Selecting the video of that pygmy slow loris (Nycticebus pygmaeus) being tickled in Russia, the researchers made their way through 12,000 comments. Worryingly, they found that around 25 percent of people expressed a desire for slow loris “pet.” Many comments were along the lines of, “where can I get one?”

This baby Sumatran slow loris has little chance to survive. Only a few weeks old, it should live with its mother in the wild for 14 months, but instead is being sold into the pet trade, doomed to a diet of bananas and rice. Photo by: The Little Fireface Project.
This baby Sumatran slow loris has little chance to survive. Only a few weeks old, it should live with its mother in the wild for 14 months, but instead is being sold into the pet trade, doomed to a diet of bananas and rice. Photo by: The Little Fireface Project.

But even beyond being illegal—slow lorises are protected in each of their range countries—the loris trade is problematic for a number of reasons. For one thing, slow lorises that end up in pet trade are not captive-bred but taken directly from the wild.

“Slow lorises are impossible to breed in captivity. The track record of some of the most renowned zoos shows that the number of slow lorises born in these facilities is way below what is needed for a self-sustaining population. Indeed several species have never been bred in captivity,” Nekaris explains. “Without a shadow of a doubt the slow lorises we see in these YouTube videos are derived directly from the wild and not the result of some fictitious/magical captive breeding facilities.”

In order to capture a slow loris baby for the trade, poachers must kill the mother and sometimes whole family groups. In other words, several slow lorises may die for one pet, and few pet owners realize their purchase is likely responsible for the death of their “pet’s” mother. Further mortalities occur while the slow loris waits for a buyer.

“Slow lorises are the world’s only venomous primates, so in hopes to keep them from biting, traders cruelly clip or rip out their teeth with pliers, wire cutters or nail clippers. This is done in the open street with no anesthesia, resulting usually in slow painful death due to infection,” Nekaris says.

This wild baby Javan slow loris is just as it should be, with a full set of teeth, and still living with its family group in the wild. Photo by: Wawan Tarniwan.
This wild baby Javan slow loris is just as it should be, with a full set of teeth, and still living with its family group in the wild. Photo by: Wawan Tarniwan.

This cruel operation also makes it possible to release confiscated lorises back into the forests, according to Nekaris, who adds that “the procedure is useless since their deadly venom can still be administered via their powerful jaws.”

Keeping a loris is also incredibly difficult. Little is known about the animal’s dietary needs even by scientists (for example the slow loris shown in the tickling video is clinically obese), and few of these pets live long.

However, the study also found a slight shift in opinions following the establishment of a Wikipedia page called ‘Conservation of Slow Lorises’ in 2011 and the airing of a documentary on the BBC about the slow loris trade called the Jungle Gremlins of Java in 2012. After this, comments expressing a desire to own a pet slow loris dropped to about 10 percent on the site per month, and those with a conservation message rose. But the videos are still seen as reinforcing both the illegal trade and the idea of slow lorises as “cute pets,” instead of wild and poisonous primates that hugely sensitive to bright lights and human handling.

Today, all of the world’s slow lorises are listed as either Vulnerable or Endangered by the IUCN Red List, and the Javan slow lorises is considered among the world’s top 25 most imperiled primates. Lorises are also threatened by deforestation and the traditional medicine trade, but play hugely important roles in their ecosystems by pollinating plants and eating insect pests.

Nekaris told mongabay.com that one of the big problems for slow lorises and other animals exploited by sites like YouTube is that these social sites don’t allow users to flag animal media as “illegal.”

This Javan slow loris is already severely dehydrated, terrified, and shows injured hands and horrific fur condition. It is unlikely to make it to any YouTube video. Photo by: Wawan Tarniwan.
This Javan slow loris is already severely dehydrated, terrified, and shows injured hands and horrific fur condition. It is unlikely to make it to any YouTube video. Photo by: Wawan Tarniwan.

“Currently, no Web 2.0 site (e.g. Facebook, YouTube) allows viewers to report that animal material is illegal. Animal cruelty is available on YouTube, but is vastly different from illegal animal activity that threatens an entire group of species. If this flagging option were available, YouTube could then either embed flagged videos with warnings about illegal pet trade, poaching, medicinal, ivory or fur trade (for example), or ideally remove the videos altogether, as they would videos portraying illegal arms, pornography or drug use,” Nekaris says.

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