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Species of the Week: Horton Plains Slender Loris

By on September 12, 2011 in Species of the Week, Uncategorized

The Horton Plains slender loris, also known as montane loris (Loris tardigradus nyctoceboides) is bizarre and adorable all at once. It did a disappearing act for 65 years which lead many researcher to believe it could be extinct; but EDGE researches managed to locate it after  more than 1,000 night time surveys in Sri Lankan forests. This is one of two Red slender loris subspecies; the other being the dry zone loris (Loris tardigradus tardigradus). The Red slender lorises are part of the Lorisidae family, which includes the African angwatiobos, pottos as and the grey lorises. This family shares a common ancestor with other extraordinary species such as African bushbabies and Madagascan lemurs.

This animal’s long, slender arms and legs are the source of its name: slender loris. Its small face is dominated by huge round eyes that grant it excellent night vision and enable it to hunt for insects during the night. Although they are primarily insectivorous, lorises also eat gum, bird’s eggs and small vertebrates, such as geckos and lizards. Not at all wasteful, they consume every part of their prey, including the scales and bones. Similarly to other primates at high altitudes, Horton Plains Slender loris may be more carnivorous than the lowland subspecies.

Horton Plains slender loris has shorter, thicker limbs relative to body length, a larger head, and thicker fur which completely covers its’ ears. Very little is known about the social organisation of this primate, though it is believe it will resemble that of the dry zone loris, which is possibly one on the most social nocturnal primates since it sleeps curled up in groups during the day despite foraging alone at night.

Montane slender loris (L. t. nycticeboides) is only known from the central highlands of central Sri Lanka. The subspecies is generally found in the undisturbed canopy of montane cloud forest and moist montane forests at an altitude of 1,800 to 2,300 meters, hence its name. To date it has only been observed in five forest patches and its extent of occurrence is less than 300 km2. Populations of this small primate are declining and currently believed to be of approximately only 80 individuals. The primary threat is their forest habitats being destroyed for logging, agriculture and development. EDGE has established a project to study and conserve the Horton Plains Slender loris and is working with the local forestry department and support of local stakeholders to reconnect loris territory and secure a future for this extraordinary species.

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