Endangered slow lorises are returned to the wild by IAR's team in Indonesia
Twenty slow lorises that have undergone rehabilitation at International Animal Rescue’s centre in West Java are being released back into the wild of the Halimun Mountain National Park. The primates, which are highly endangered and listed on Appendix 1 of CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) were confiscated by the police last year from an illegal trader in East Java and taken to IAR’s centre in Ciapus, near Bogor. Six of the small prosimians are being fitted with radio collars so that they can be tracked and their location and behaviour monitored. This intensive study on the viability of releasing slow lorises back into the wild is being carried out by researcher Richard Moore, a PhD student from Oxford Brookes University in the UK. It will be completed later on this year or during 2011.
The slow lorises are being transported up the mountain in batches of two or three and first released into a habituation cage for two or three days before being released. During this time they are kept under close observation. There were already signs of improvement in the animals' behaviour: some had previously been displaying stereotypical behaviour but this diminished in the habituation cage and upon release ceased altogether. Two of the lorises - Paloma and Tengah - immediately began feeding on wild flowers and then became increasingly active, hunting for and eating ants. This exhibition of natural wild behaviour is an encouraging sign that the slow lorises will be able to fend for themselves once left to their own devices.
The teeth of the lorises are relatively good, although not perfect. Slow lorises have their teeth cut down by market traders before they are sold as pets, causing them terrible suffering and jeopardising their chances of surviving in the wild. By monitoring them for six months after release it will be possible to see whether they are able to feed and fend for themselves. This is the first time such research will have been undertaken on these animals. The radio collars emit a signal which triggers a series of small beeps on a radio transmitter, enabling the animals to be followed. The range of the signal will depend on the terrain but is likely to be about 2 km.
Once the first pair of collared lorises has established a stable home range, a second pair will be released and also followed. There will be two monitoring teams of three people who will be following the animals every night for the next six months.
Said Alan Knight OBE, Chief Executive of IAR: "This is a very exciting study that should reveal useful information about the behaviour of slow lorises and their ability to survive in the wild post-rehabilitation. It is vital to collect this data if we aim to release increasing numbers of these endangered primates back into the wild in future."