Endangered primates rescued, rehabilitated and returned to the wild in Indonesia
Seven slow lorises - a species just granted the highest level of protection by international governments - are returning to the wild after being rescued from a smuggler in Indonesia. They are the only survivors from 26 lorises confiscated by Forestry Officers in Lampung province in southern Sumatra. When they were discovered, 13 of the lorises were already dead. Also hidden in the back of the smuggler’s car were three dead baby macaques, a small baby surili which died soon after confiscation, civets, tortoises and crocodiles.
Most of the female lorises with nursing young died before they were found. After being caught from the wild, the animals had been left without food, water and even sufficient air to breathe. The babies were also in very poor condition and the sickest and weakest died in the weeks that followed.
However, the survivors received ten weeks of intensive care from staff at the Forestry Department Rescue Centre in Lampung, assisted by the International Animal Rescue team in Indonesia and two IAR research students from Oxford Brookes University in the UK. Seven of the slow lorises survived - two mothers and five babies - and grew healthy and strong, gaining up to three times their original weight.
The smuggler, who is being prosecuted by the authorities, was on his way to Jakarta to sell the animals to local market traders and international exporters. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society 1400 lorises a year are trafficked between Sumatra and Java.
The IAR Indonesia team helped the vets at the Lampung Rescue Centre carry out the final medical assessment of the lorises. Meanwhile, in a beautiful piece of rainforest known as Batutegi, preparations were being made for their arrival. The area became protected after the release of two groups of pigtailed macaques in 2006 which was also carried out by International Animal Rescue. Speaking from the IAR Head Office in the UK, CEO Alan Knight said: "The plight of the slow loris in Indonesia concerns us from both an animal welfare and a conservation perspective. The illegal trade causes untold suffering to the animals that are caught from the wild and sold in the pet markets and is also having a huge impact on wild populations. We’re pleased that at least some of the lorises survived their ordeal and recovered sufficiently to be released back into the wild.
"We are very happy to support the Forestry Department with the care of rescued animals. However the long-term solution lies in raising awareness of the plight of these and other endangered species of wildlife and discouraging people from buying them as pets."
The seven lorises were first put in a habituation cage in the forest at the release site where they were soon to be freed. While they were getting used to their new surroundings, some of the pigtailed macaques released seven months earlier came by, but kept their distance, proving how well they had reverted to living in the wild. It is hoped that the lorises will cope equally well with their new-found freedom.
The first specialist rescue centre for lorises in Indonesia is currently being built by International Animal Rescue in Ciapus, near Bogor. The charity is fighting to protect and preserve these beautiful primates and to return captive lorises to the wild wherever possible. Those that are no longer able to fend for themselves after time in captivity will be cared for in an IAR sanctuary - the next best thing to life in the wild.
For further information contact: Lis Key, IAR UK, on +44 (0)1825 767688 / mobile 07957 824379, or Karmele Llano Sanchez, IAR Indonesia, on +62 (0)8131 496 2608.
During the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species held in Holland, a big step forward was made in the fight against the trade in slow lorises. Previously on Appendix II, there was sufficient evidence of the critical plight of the loris and of its habitat loss to justify uplisting this species to Appendix I. This should give more international protection to these already scarce nocturnal primates.
In Indonesia it is still common to see lorises on sale in open bird markets and tourist areas. They are kept in cages out in the daylight and subjected to considerable levels of stress. These nocturnal animals are normally solitary and move around at night, avoiding contact with other animals or people. Bringing them into the markets is often a death sentence.
Lorises often have their small sharp canine teeth cut out and as a result are at high risk of infection. Up to 90% of them will die as a result if they don’t receive proper medical and dental care.
With special thanks to: Dr Anna Nekaris for all her effort and advice and for sending the two students all the way from UK to help with the care of the lorises; to Angelina and Becky, the two students who had such a difficult task; to Anna Catharina Eva Maria Duijndam for kindly donating the cage for the lorises; to Helga Schultze for all her constant help and preoccupation, her emails and worries and for all the hours without sleep…; to all those who have had some input, recommendations, care or medical advice; to the whole team of the Rescue Centre in Lampung (Pusat Penyelamatan Satwa Lampung); to the Forestry Department in Lampung, especially the head of the department Mr Agus and to Mr Edo, and to the whole team of International Animal Rescue Indonesia and UK. Thank you for making this possible.