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Protecting primates

Rachel Munds, MU doctoral student in anthropology and Anna Nekaris, primatology professor at Oxford Brookes University and MU graduate pose with a tarsier, another species of nocturnal primate.

A venomous primate with two tongues would seem safe from the pet trade, but the big-eyed, teddy-bear face of the slow loris (Nycticebus sp.) has made them a target for illegal pet poachers throughout the animal’s range in southeastern Asia and nearby islands. A University of Missouri doctoral student and her colleagues recently identified three new species of slow loris. The primates had originally been grouped with another species. Dividing the species into four distinct classes means the risk of extinction is greater than previously believed for the animals but could help efforts to protect the unusual primate.

“Four separate species are harder to protect than one, since each species needs to maintain its population numbers and have sufficient forest habitat,” said lead author Rachel Munds, MU doctoral student in anthropology in the College of Arts and Science. “Unfortunately, in addition to habitat loss to deforestation, there is a booming black market demand for the animals. They are sold as pets, used as props for tourist photos or dismembered for use in traditional Asian medicines.”

According to Munds, slow lorises are not domesticated and are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

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