It’s been a busy week here at weird biology dot com, so we thought we’d use this opportunity to… slow down a bit. Chillax, as the kids say these days. (We think so, anyway. Do the young folk still say this?) So get ready to learn about a slow, adorable, and hilariously weird relative of yours.
(He’d wave but he would fall off that branch.)
A small nocturnal primate found across Southeast Asia, the Slow Loris is closely related to Lemurs and Bush Babies. They have huge night-seeing eyes, and a charming trustworthy smile. They are mostly solitary, but do hang out in family groups while their children are young. Oh and did I mention they’re oh-so squeezably adorable. Also they’re, well. Slow.
The Slow Loris has a metabolism speed similar to the Sloth. This means they move in jerky slow motion as they travel through the treetops with their weird little pincer hands. In fact, when they were first discovered by Western scientists in 1770 they were classified as part of the Sloth family for this reason. We now know this was wrong and dumb, and that biologists from the 1700′s rarely had any idea what they were talking about. (They also named it “Loris” from the Dutch “Loeris”, meaning “clown”. But the Loris isn’t holding any grudges or anything. Nope.)
The Slow Loris is also called the Malu Malu by Indonesians, which means “shy one”. This is because when spotted, they hide their face in their hands like embarrassed children. It’s OBSCENELY cute.
This makes them one of the few species to have successfully weaponized their natural cuteness. (Others include baby seals, certain species of moth, and human toddlers.) Oh, and they’re the world’s only venomous primate. That’s a thing.
They might not look like it, but these adorable little tree-huggers are just FULL of poison! They create the toxin in glands on their forearm, which they use to coat their tiny adorable fangs. They also coat their fur for protection from any predator who would rather not get a mouth full of agonizing death. Which, you know, most of them.
The Slow Loris also makes sure to cover the fur of their young with this venom. This gives the children a toxic layer of protection and, incidentally, fills the forests of Southeast Asia with weaponized toddlers.
However, even with this added deadly bite, the Slow Loris is in trouble. Despite international laws meant to protect these endangered primates, they are being wiped out by the human double-assault of habitat loss and the pet trade. Because they are so cuddly-wuddly adorable, Slow Lorises are becoming popular pets. However, these animals never live long in captivity and fall prey to malnourishment and neglect. Also, something like 90% of captured Slow Lorises never even make it that far and die in transit while being smuggled for the pet trade. This is NOT ALLOWED.
LOOK AT HIM. WOULD YOU PROTECT HIM? WOULD YOU DIE FOR HIM?
So if you buy one, I will come to your house and personally spit on your carpet. DON’T BUY A SLOW LORIS.
Hopefully, spreading awareness of the plight of these adorable primates will be enough to save them. We hope these weird little toxic furballs continue to scramble around adorably in the forests of the future.
1. Lonelyshrimp, Flickr
2. Nekaris, K. A. I.; Moore, R. S.; Rode, E.; Fry, B. G., Wikimedia Commons
3. Helena Snyder, Wikimedia Commons