Grim discovery during operation to rescue endangered slow lorises
Our team in West Borneo made a grim discovery when they arrived to rescue some endangered slow lorises that were being kept at a tourist resort as an attraction for the guests. After receiving reports that there were 17 lorises at the location, the team found only ten. Seven of the endangered primates were alive but there were also three dead lorises in the enclosure and their bodies were desiccated and starting to decay.
The team had travelled from the primate rehabilitation centre in Ketapang, along with three members of the forestry department (BKSDA) in Pontianak and staff members from the BKSDA in Singkawang and Paloh.
They arrived at the hamlet of Camar Bulan, Temajuk Village, District Paloh, Sambas District on 13 April, escorted by a group of curious local residents. The lorises were being kept in an open area of about 6x8 metres which contained just three trees and was surrounded by a fence about 50cm high. Spotlights powered by a generator lit up the trees at night so that the lorises could be easily seen by visitors to the seaside resort.
The team acted quickly, climbing the trees and catching the seven live lorises. They noted immediately that one of the animals was in a particularly bad state. From information obtained at the resort, it seems the owner bought the lorises from local residents and paid Ind Rp 100,000 (US$ 7.62) per head for them. In light of the owner’s absence, one of the employees at the resort named Setiawan signed the paperwork authorising the surrender of the endangered primates.
Once the documentation was completed the team set off immediately for Pontianak. During the long journey they bought citrus fruits to sustain the lorises. They arrived at the BKSDA offices at 11 pm and vet Uwi quickly checked the lorises’ condition.
The little primates were found to be dehydrated and stressed. In addition, they were underweight and one female gave the team serious cause for concern. The team picked up two more lorises from the BKSDA office that had previously been rescued in Kubu Raya. All the lorises were found to have problems with their mouths and infections in their gums after having their teeth cut out. Nevertheless, they seemed to have fairly good appetites and ate bananas and crickets during the onward journey.
One loris (named Gia) was suffering from severe dehydration, weakness, diarrhoea, arrhythmic heart sounds and hypothermia. The vets wrapped her in warm compresses to raise her body temperature and gave her fluids intravenously to rehydrate her. She continued to feed on the bananas and crickets which was an encouraging sign.
The rescue team arrived back at the primate rehabilitation centre at 0700am on 15 April. The vets immediately administered emergency treatment to Gia whose condition by this time was deteriorating rapidly. An attempt was made to take blood samples from the little loris but her severe dehydration made it impossible. She was given antibiotics, more fluids and warm compresses and a stool examination was carried out which showed that she was infested with worms. Gia was immediately given worm medication and her condition began to improve. However sadly on the 16th April she suffered a further decline and died in the early afternoon.
Alan Knight OBE, Chief Executive, said: “It is no wonder that the lorises being kept at the resort were in such poor condition. The environment they were being kept in failed to meet their basic needs. Slow lorises are shy nocturnal primates. They spend their days sleeping, hidden away deep in the forest, and emerge in the cool darkness of the night to hunt for food. These captive lorises were victims of shocking cruelty and neglect. They were kept under blinding lights to make them visible to tourists and had insufficient space and vegetation to move around and find food. Their teeth had been cut which will have affected their ability to catch and eat insects and their infected mouths must have been causing them considerable pain. No wonder they were all underweight and dehydrated. Had our team not rescued them, I have no doubt that more of them would have died before too much longer.
“The fact that the bodies of the three dead lorises were still in the enclosure with the live ones indicates a total lack of concern for the animals’ welfare. I am relieved that we were able to remove the seven survivors but of course sorry and saddened that we were unable to save the life of Gia who was very sick by the time our team reached her.”
International Animal Rescue is urging holiday-makers who encounter wild animals being kept as tourist attractions not to pay money to see or have their photos taken with them.
“We would urge anyone who comes across wild animals in situations like these lorises to express their concerns about them politely to those responsible and also to contact a local animal welfare group so that action can be taken to help the animals in question,” Knight said. “It is also worth alerting other potential visitors to the location via online travel sites such as Tripadvisor,” he added.