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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

“Tickling is TORTURE” campaign enlists celebrity support to save endangered primates from the pet trade

International Animal Rescue is today launching a celebrity-backed campaign to expose the cruelty involved in keeping slow lorises as pets.

 International Animal Rescue’s “Tickling is TORTURE” campaign reveals the truth behind keeping these endangered primates in captivity in order to stifle the craze for them created by online videos. Clips on YouTube showing pet slow lorises being tickled or handfed have led to a clamour from people all over the world to own one of these shy, nocturnal primates, even though they are completely unsuited to life as a domestic pet.

When a slow loris is tickled it raises its arms above its head, not because it is enjoying it but in an attempt to defend itself by accessing a venomous gland on its elbow. Given the chance – and if its teeth were still intact – it would give the person doing the tickling a serious bite.

The big brown eyes, soft fur and slow deliberate movements of the slow loris make it cute and appealing in the eyes of a public unaware of the cruelty behind the pet trade. Slow lorises are poached from the cool shade of the rainforest and taken to the heat and bright light of the pet markets in Indonesia to be sold. In order to make them easier to handle their teeth are clipped off with pliers or clippers, often resulting in infection and death. 

The hard-hitting campaign video which contains graphic footage of a loris having its teeth clipped is narrated by actor Peter Egan and also features author and TV traveller Simon Reeve. Comedian and actress Jo Brand and naturalist, photographer and TV presenter Chris Packham are also supporting the campaign which asks the public “not to support the trade in slow lorises by ‘sharing’ or ‘liking’ images of lorises being kept as pets.” Instead it calls on people to “sign the pledge, help to expose the truth and end the suffering.”

Phily Kennington, leader of the campaign, says: “Unspeakable cruelty is involved in the trade in slow lorises and the public must be made aware of this. Apart from the suffering caused by capturing them from the wild and clipping their teeth, keeping these shy little primates in captivity is inherently cruel. Slow lorises travel long distances at night in their hunt for food. They feed on crickets and other live insects, as well as birds’ eggs, fruit and the sap of certain trees. YouTube videos show pet lorises eating rice balls and other unsuitable food, so it’s no surprise that most of them are malnourished and suffering from serious health problems.

“Rihanna recently posted a selfie of herself holding a slow loris and Lady Gaga was intending to use one as a prop in her music video until it bit her – undoubtedly because it wasn’t happy being handled and was trying to protect itself. Using lorises in this way sends out entirely the wrong message - that it’s ok to keep them in captivity and handle them like a domestic pet. So our campaign tells people the truth: slow lorises shouldn’t be kept as pets, treated like playthings and tickled.”

With the Javan slow loris now listed as Critically Endangered by the World Conservation Union, the pet trade poses an even more serious threat to its survival than habitat loss. 

If the species is to survive, the clamour for slow lorises as pets must be stifled. International Animal Rescue hopes that its “Tickling is TORTURE” campaign will go a long way towards achieving that.

Click here to sign the pledge and visit the campaign website