The Slow Loris

Youtube turned the slow loris into an internet celebrity. ‘Slow loris with tiny umbrella’, with over 6 million hits in multiple videos, portrayed a harmless, bizarre looking creature with large, innocent eyes.

By Lionel MauritsonJellrancher at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

By Lionel MauritsonJellrancher at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

But its amusing face masks a dangerous secret; unheard of in any primate species, the slow loris is amongst the first venomous mammals ever to be discovered. When alarmed, the loris raises its arms in front of its face – this inarguably cute, defensive posture in fact allows the loris to combine its saliva with an oily fluid secreted by a gland in the elbow – producing a fully toxic substance on its arms.

A bite from one of these gremlins can take months to heal, and has known to cause anaphylactic shock. This amusing looking creature still frightens villagers in areas of Burma and Thailand; the loris is even widely believed to be supernatural in these parts of South East Asia, where up to 5 venomous species can be found.

All loris species are endangered, threatened by habitat loss and the illegal pet trade. Few are aware of the recent discovery of the toxic bite, and the adorable looking loris can be sold for up to $2500 in Japanese and Chinese markets. The teeth are clipped or removed for the pet trade, causing infections that may eventually lead to death.

With its cuteness affecting its own wild existence, conservation efforts and publicity hope to save this wide-eyed primate, who, despite its fascinating venomous secret, is still vulnerable after all.