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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

The BBC's Indian Ocean programme tackles the plight of the Javan slow loris

The final episode of the BBC’s Indian Ocean series, presented by TV traveller and author Simon Reeve on 3 June, investigates the plight of slow lorises in Indonesia and the work of IAR’s team to rehabilitate animals rescued from the pet trade and return them to their home in the wild.

The endangered slow loris. Photo: Julie O'Neill.Indian Ocean will be broadcast in the UK at 8pm on Sunday 3 June on BBC 2. It highlights the threats to the survival of the endangered slow loris, a small, shy primate highly prized as a pet in South East Asia. International Animal Rescue runs the only specialised rehabilitation centre for slow lorises in Indonesia and it was at this facility on the island of Java that some of the filming for the programme took place, using lorises rescued by IAR’s team.

Although both Indonesian and international laws prohibit the trade in slow lorises, they are poached from the wild in their thousands and illegally sold in animal markets in Indonesia or smuggled to booming markets in Japan and Russia.  More than half are likely to die in transit. Those that end up in the markets suffer terrible stress from being dumped in cramped cages in full sunlight – a far cry from their natural environment in the rainforest.

To prevent them from using their venomous bite, traders cut off the lorises’ teeth using nail clippers. This ghastly mutilation causes terrible infections, often leading to a slow and painful death. Others are brutally killed for use in traditional medicine.

A slow loris has its radio collar checked ready for release. Photo: Julie O'Neill.International Animal Rescue’s team in Indonesia is currently caring for nearly 100 slow lorises that have been received from confiscations or voluntarily surrendered by private owners. The aim is eventually to return as many of them as possible to the wild, but first research is being carried out into what factors determine the success of their rehabilitation and long term survival in the wild.

In the programme Simon joins veterinary director Karmele and her team to entice Willis, a loris released wearing a radio collar, out of the forest at night and catch him for a health check and to replace the battery in his collar. Simon describes in hushed tones what a privilege it is to be in the presence of this remarkable creature, one of the 25 most endangered primates in the world.

IAR Chief Executive Alan Knight OBE says: “The Indian Ocean programme is a great opportunity to raise awareness of the plight of the slow loris. I hope it will discourage people from owning them as pets and encourage them to support our work to save them. Slow lorises may look cute and cuddly, but they are not toys or domestic pets, they are wild animals and entirely unsuited to life in captivity. Without our centre, there would be nowhere to house animals confiscated from the markets and no prospect of ever returning them to the wild.”