Loris in the limelight!

A massive occupancy monitoring programme has been initiated over the past 18 months to assess the persistence of lorises in over 100 of the remaining fragmented rainforest patches spread across south-western Sri Lanka.  The principal threat facing the slender loris is habitat change, resulting from nearly two centuries of over exploitation for coffee, tea, rubber, and cinnamon. Combine with the facts that the species is endemic to central and south-western Sri Lanka, and is typically found in the southern “wet zone” of the island, up to the central “intermediate zone”, and the picture is bleak.

The slender loris field research team

Fortunately, the ZSL EDGE programme has teamed up with the Open University of Sri Lanka and
FOGSL of the University of Colombo wildlife experts to develop a species conservation strategy. The overall programme is being monitored by the National Steering Committee on slender loris appointed by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resource, Sri Lanka.

A major objective of the project is to provide the first spatial data on loris species at this scale in Sri Lanka allowing questions regarding habitat use, forest preferences, and distribution to finally be answered. To focus attention and resources on this mammoth task, seven hypotheses were selected for slender loris occupancy monitoring:

1 – Loris occupancy is highest in lowland rainforest ecotype compared to sub-montane and  montane, 2 – Loris occupancy is  related to connectivity to other habitat patches 3 – Protected and managed areas have greater loris occupancy than gazetted but unmanaged and unprotected areas, 4 – Loris occupancy is highest in secondary forest compared to primary forest and agroforestry systems, 5 – Loris occupancy changes according to patch size, 6 – Loris occupancy is highest in forest with highest substrate connectivity than moderately connect and no connection; 7 – Different loris species has difference occupancy.

Nocturnal transect - looking for loris

The first round of the occupancy monitoring programme for slender lorises was completed in March 2010. Nocturnal transect surveys (2km each) were repeated across some 115 forest patches in the wet zone and intermediate zone of the country – totaling over 1000 surveys!

The team are now beginning to process and interpret a huge amount of data, to reveal some of the secrets of loris life. One early success has been the rediscovery the virtually unknown Horton Plains slender loris (Loris tardigradus nycticeboides). Originally documented in 1937, there have only been four known encounters in the past 72 years. The rediscovery and capture by the team (working under the ZSL EDGE programme) has resulted in the first detailed physical examination of this sub-species.

Collecting morphometric data

The Horton Plains slender loris is evidently extremely rare and was only found after more than 200 hrs of nocturnal transect surveys in the known habitat. The red slender loris is a focal EDGE species, and the rarity of L. t. nycticeboides resulted in it being listed as one of the world’s 25 most endangered primates.

More results of the fieldwork will follow in the next blog………

Horton Plains slender loris


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  1. Cary Cooke-Newcomb said,

    on July 20th, 2010 at 1:46 am

    This amazing , stealthy primate musta
    HEARD A WOO!” Welcome to our prying eyes, HORTON!
    Glad you showed for a lil visit.
    We were WORRIED!
    EDGE: Just found you~ will be joining up! CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!I am HONORED to have met your Slendr Lomis whom I will forever call HORTON!:)

  2. on July 20th, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Brilliant, just absolutely brilliant. I love the work that the ZSL Edge of Exsitence programme is doing and this find is truly exceptional!

    I visit Sri Lanka quite regularly and the amount of rare and endemic wildlife there going relatively unchecked is amazing!

  3. on July 20th, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    Congratulations to the team for finally photographing it. Also a thank you to the primatologists from Oxford-Brookes university who got Sri Lankans excited about lorises, especially Dr Anna Nekaris and Dr Lilia Bernede. I tried to photograph the Horton Plains Selnder Loris for a book on primates (authored by Anna Nekaris) which is available as a pdf on http://www.jetwingeco.com/index.cfm?mid=6&id=6 Having failed to do so, I appreciate all the more the achievment it has been to find and photograph it since Anna Nekaris saw it in 2002. Well done.

  4. senani karunaratne said,

    on July 21st, 2010 at 5:16 am

    Congrates for the all hard work done by researchers to find this beautiful creature.
    I was fortunately enough to see some wild Loris spp in Udawattekelle forest reserve, Kandy almost 20 years back with my great grandfather and naturalist P.B Karunaratne.
    As stated in blog it is really important that you have a spatial database of the distribution of these animals in order to plan future conservation activates. All the best for your work…
    Senani Karunaratne

  5. Lilia Bernede said,

    on July 23rd, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    Congratulations to ZSL and the Sri Lankan loris team for this great catch! It will be nice to finally get some data on the Horton Plains slender loris, although I hope that loris wasn’t too stressed out by being measured in broad daylight?! Good luck with it all.

    Lilia Bernede

  6. Warnakulasuriya Vithanage said,

    on July 26th, 2010 at 6:03 am

    Firstly, congratulations to the team for your dedication, patience and excellent photographs! I hope that the research is carried out in due time and please continue to look for more endemic and endangered wildlife here in Sri Lanka because our country is full of rich (all though limited) habitat for a variety of species, big and small. The general population of Sri Lanka is fully behind this kind of research and investigation and we are even more proud of our country when we hear of discoveries such as this. Please protect the Slender Loris, help educate Sri Lankans on its whereabouts, habitat and lifestyle so that we too will protect and learn to value the endangered species that share our most wonderful home land! Hats off to the ZSL and Sri Lanka’s premier universities!

  7. on July 30th, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Best Wishes, To Saman and the team


  8. Chanuka maheshani said,

    on August 4th, 2010 at 8:51 am

    Congrats for amazing work done by Dr.Padmalal,Saman Gamage and whole team.Great work.

  9. Sam Ranasinghe said,

    on August 25th, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Congratulations to all involved!

    This is a cause for great excitment and infact, relief!.

    It has been an anxious wait for us, the past few years, knowing how rare the sightings were. Finally overjoyed after this confirmation.

    This is of course the 1st step towards its conservation, now we must whip up a huge awareness campaign in Sri Lanka and overseas for habitat conservation of the Loris and other rare/endemic species of Sri Lanka.

    Anyone wishing to form a forum or if you are already a member of such a group, please e-mail me on samtheman07@hotmail.com.

    Best Wishes.

    Sam Ranasinghe

  10. on January 16th, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    Congratulations for all of your hard works did in the field Saman and the other colleagues. I know how hard it was since I participated initial filed works in 2007-2008. Again that is great what you guys have done. I saw this amazing creature in 2008 with Saman for the first time in my life. I really appreciate making it a reality photographing it. I wish if I was lucky to be a team member for this exciting findings at this end. Unfortunately not.
    Thank you very much ZSL EDGE supporting further to achieve this land mark.
    Keep up good works.
    Best Wishes by Samantha Mirandu

  11. Saman Gamage said,

    on January 17th, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Thanks Samantha! Yes, I saw montane slender loris two times in my life one with Vidupa Rathnayaka (Currently in the EDGE field team) in 2007 and with you (my research assistant during this period) in 2008. Unfortunately we can’t manage to take a photograph or capture the animal. Can you imagine how we did those work with limited funding. I am really thanks for the ZSL EDGE programme for provide their support to achieve this goal.
    Saman Gamage

  12. lili said,

    on August 23rd, 2011 at 11:24 am

    hi i love your website

  13. amy said,

    on March 2nd, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    hi guys i’m really impressed with all the work!
    when will the next blog be posted with the fieldwork results?

  14. Alex Cameron-Smith said,

    on March 5th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    Hi Amy, there have been two blogs on the slender loris work since this one. If you search the blogs for ‘slender loris’ you’ll find them. We’ll also be updating the blogs quite regularly, so keep an eye out! We love to connect with our supporters so we encourage you to join as an EDGE Champion (under Get Involved >> Champions). You can also join our EDGE Community where you can see all the people working with EDGE species. Thanks for your support!

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