The latest celebrity fad is getting pet lorises. They’re adorable! They have such big eyes and a funny face! And look, they like to get tickled!
Aww, so cute. I want one. At least, that seems to be the typical response in followers of pop culture. Anna Nekaris, a professor of primate conservation at Oxford Brookes University, has been documenting the loris fad and doing her best to expose the reality of the loris trade.
They created a Wikipedia page on loris conservation, and Nekaris appeared in a powerful BBC documentary, Jungle Gremlins of Java. The film paints a decidedly less cute picture of loris daily life. In addition to habitat loss, the bushmeat industry, and being used in traditional (read: unscientific) Chinese medicine, the pet trade claims countless lorises each year. Traffickers rip the animals out of their environment—often killing mothers to take their babies—and then isolate the animals in abysmal conditions. Because lorises have formidable canines, dealers pull their fangs or cut them out with nail clippers (and no, they don’t use Novocain on the streets of Java). Many lorises die before they can even be sold as pets.
But back to the case of Sonya, that beloved little tickle monster. Even if she was stolen from a jungle, even if her teeth had been snipped, didn’t she still look like she was enjoying her new home and loving the attention from her owners? Well, I’ll leave you with one last bummer: no, she wasn’t. A loris with its arms up is in a defensive position. The little fireface gets its venomous bite from patches of skin on its inner elbows that secrete an oily toxin. With elbows akimbo, the loris mixes the venom with its saliva and then delivers the powerful concoction with tiny, specially curved teeth on its lower jaw. The bite is extremely painful and takes a long time to heal. And in rare cases, the venom (which some say smells like sweaty socks) can bring on anaphylactic shock and death in humans.
Not so cute anymore, is it? That’s a pissed off loris that wants to bite you and poison you and see you dead.