One small step for rescued Javan loris takes it back to the wild (Image: International Animal Rescue)
Conservationists released 65 critically endangered Javan slow lorises back to the trees after rescuing them from poachers. British-based International Animal Rescue helped in the operation by caring for a number of the primates – prized as novelties because they appear to like being tickled – so they were fit to return to the wild. When they were seized by police earlier this month, many were showing signs of physical and psychological trauma and one was feared to have been wounded by an air pellet.
Photographs relesaed by IAR today show how the confiscated lorises received care at its charity’s Primate Rehabilitation Centre in Bogor, West Java, before they were released last weekend.
Eleven of the animals – worth more than £1,200 each on the black market – were treated for stress, dehydration, poor nutrition and injuries, having been kept in small, dirty boxes.
Imam Arifin, IAR’s Indonesia veterinarian, explained today: “The lorises have received treatment to improve their condition and restore them to health.
"Thankfully, because they had been caught from the wild but had not yet fallen into the hands of illegal traders, they had suffered no lasting damage and, after appropriate care, were ready for release back into their natural habitat.”
Rescued Javan loris looks in pitiful state after being rescued (Image: International Animal Rescue)
Rescued Javan loris receives veterinary treatment (Image: International Animal Rescue)
IAR’s Indonesian programme director Karmele Llano Sanchez praised the widespread efforts being made to save the lorises, a species only one step from extinction.
She said: “We greatly appreciate the commitment of the police and the local people and we are very encouraged to see that the slow loris trade in Indonesia is no longer tolerated, either by the police, other law enforcement officials, or by the community.”
In total, 65 of a huge consignment of 79 confiscated lorises were returned to the wild in two separate missions inside the Masigit-Kareumbi Conservation Forest and also on the slopes of Mount Tampomas. Sadly, three of the rescued lorises had died earlier.
Police had seized the lorises and apprehended the poachers after being tipped off about the illegal activity of two men by the local community.
The area police chief, AKBP Mariyono, warned poachers they face five years behind bars and a £5,000 fine for trading in protected species.
He stressed: “We take any activity relating to the hunting and trading in protected species like the slow loris extremely seriously. Anyone in possession of any protected wildlife should hand it over immediately to the forestry department or other appropriate institution.”
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Conservationists carrying lorises back to the forest in plastic boxes (Image: International Animal Rescue)
Two lorises look back as they climb to freedom (Image: International Animal Rescue)
There are hopes that releasing the confiscated lorises at the two sites will help bolster their survival.
Huge eyes and a soft, cuddly coat have made the loris a must have pet in the Far East, with individuals selling for a small fortune – but at an awful cost to each animal as well as the conservation of their kind.
Online images of lorises looking as if they are revelling in having their bodies tickled only fuel the demand for the animals to be snatched from the wild and sold on the black market.
Yet for the loris, capture means having its teeth removed by pliers without anaesthetic to stop them biting potential owners and also being fed human treats that leave them badly malnourished.
Even putting their hands up as if they are enjoying have their bodies stroked is an instinctive reaction brought about by sheer terror, and an attempt to reach a venomous gland they use to defend themselves
All eight slow loris species are vulnerable to extinction in their native Far East haunts, although it is the critically endangered Javan species that is gripping on the tightest for survival, with numbers crashing by 80 per cent in recent decades.