Anna Nekaris
Professor in anthropology and primate conservation and director of the Little Fireface Project

Next week the Little Fireface Project will be launching its fourth Slow Loris Outreach Week (SLOW), which aims to bring attention and awareness to the plight of a little known group of primates, the Asian lorises.

Lorises are fascinating and undeniably adorable animals but unfortunately they are also some of the most threatened primates in the world.

When we launch the campaign on September 14, we will be asking people all over the world to change their Facebook banners and profile picture to our S.L.O.W ones and share loris conservation messages across their social media accounts.

The slow loris has, in recent years, become an internet sensation with millions of people sharing and ‘liking’ videos of these strange but cute animals interacting with humans.

Their cute appearance, however, is a curse.

Many of the lorises featured in these videos have been captured from the wild and illegally sold as pets both locally from Asia’s animal markets and internationally via a complex smuggling network and the internet, all at great cost to the animal.

In their natural habitat, lorises are shy, nocturnal primates with a hugely venomous bite.

In fact we know that loris venom can harm other lorises and could kill a human.

It is for this reason that when these animals are captured to sell on, their teeth are cruelly ripped out.

This leaves the loris completely defenceless and unable to eat, should it ever eventually be returned to the wild. Through my research across Asia’s animal markets I have seen slow lorises crammed together in tiny cages in soaring heat, malnourished with damaged eyes from bright sunlight and displaying signs of fear and extreme stress.

It is not hard to believe that many of these animals, who live in darkness and travel for miles in the wild, don’t survive the markets.

Those who do survive go on to be used as tourist photo props or pets subjecting them further to mistreatment.

A possible even greater threat is their use in Asian ‘medicines’; in some countries killing lorises for human treatment has meant their near extinction in the wild.

The Little Fireface Project, named after a Sundanese word for loris, is the world’s longest running loris conservation project.

It started in 1993 under the auspices of the Nocturnal Primate Research Group of Oxford Brookes University.

With the project we aim to save lorises from extinction through learning more about their ecology and using this information to educate rescue centres and zoos, local people and law enforcement officers.

Our work in Java, both in the wild and in loris rescue centres has been to perform some of the first in-depth studies of lorises. The findings of these studies then help us learn how to keep lorises in the wild forests and return captive lorises to their rightful home.

This is a huge challenge with habitat loss leaving Java with less than 10 per cent of its rainforests.

We research how slow lorises find new homes in the wild and once we understand this, we hope we can improve the success of reintroduction of captive lorises.

To kick-off S.L.O.W week, I will be giving a talk at the Oxford Museum of Natural History to the Oxfordshire Mammal Society on slow loris conservation on Monday.

To support S.L.O.W you can visit the Little Fireface Project’s Facebook page or the website

S.L.O.W runs until 20 September.

If you are interested in donating to the slow loris fund, more information can be found at