Slow Loris – the adorable big-eyed primate that could kill you
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Slow Loris – the adorable big-eyed primate that could kill you

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    Slow Loris is one of the most unique and rarest primates in the world, being also the only poisonous primate that ever existed. Although this animal might seem harmless with its huge, bulbous eyes, charming you with its innocent and cute look, it actually carries a poison in its bite that can prove deadly.


So, maybe you should think twice before deciding to take this animal home as your cuddly pet because it may turn out to be the last thing you’ll see if the animal feels threatened in any way.
    Despite its cuteness, Slow Loris is quite a bizarre looking arboreal animal and it is also unique amongst other mammals as it has additional vertebrae in its spine for a better flexibility when moving along tree branches. At first, in 1981, Dean Conant Worcester, an American Zoologist, described this peculiar creature as having “the face of a bear, the hands of a monkey” and that it “moved like a sloth”.
    Slow lorises represent a group of various species of stresirrhine primates which constitute the genus called Nycticebus. There are at least 8 species recognized to date, more precisely the Sunda slow loris, Bengal slow loris, pygmy slow loris, Javan slow loris, Bornean slow loris, N. bancanus, N borneanus, and N. kayan.
    Throughout this species there’s a considerable size difference, with the Bengal slow loris representing the biggest one and the pygmy slow loris constituting the smallest one. In every species, the males and females don’t vary extremely in size, instead they differ in body weight, with slow loris males weighting more than females.
    Slow Loris, as in Nyctcebus coucang, is a nocturnal and exclusively arboreal primate. The head of slow loris is rounded and it has a short snout, small ears that are sparsely covered in hair and concealed in the fur. Slow loris has a thick body with arms and legs almost even in length, and a long torso that gives this species the ability to twist and stretch to tree branches. Coloration differs among the slow loris’ array; however the thick and woolly fur inclines to be mostly colored in light brown with a big, dark brown stripe following the median line of the back. Slow loris possesses dark brown dapples around its huge, bulging eyes, which are divided by a white stripe of fur that starts on the forehead and ends at the nose. The eyes are forward-facing and provide this species stereo vision. Also, slow loris has monochromatic vision, which signifies that it can only see in shades of a single color. Slow lorises don’t have the opsin gene that would permit them to distinguish short wave length light, which consists also of the colors blue and green. A slow loris has also a keen olfactory system that can aid it interact with other slow lorises. These species have the ability to smell each other’s markings and know their meaning. Furthermore, unlike most primates, all slow lorises possess a vestigial tail hidden in fur.



    The hands of slow loris have the second finger short, but opposable thumbs that are greatly developed, which gives slow loris the ability to firmly grasp and hold on tree branches with a strong clinch. Furthermore, slow loris has a particular placement of veins in the wrists and ankles, which obstructs muscle spasm and allows the primate to hang on branches for a very long time.
As their name implies, slow lorises can move only slow, keeping exactly three limbs clinging all the time on any surface it is on. Their motion is very calculated, turning on every direction or moving between supports without making a lot of noise or modification in speed. Moreover, they don’t jump and are nearly entirely arboreal, which signify that they spend a great deal of their time mostly in trees and seldom visit the ground.
Being nocturnal species, slow lorises spend their time sleeping rolled up in a ball during the day in shrouded areas of trees over the ground, mostly on tree branches, sprigs, palm fronds and vines. Usually, slow lorises prefer sleeping by themselves, but sometimes they will choose sleeping with other slow lorises as well. However, an individual from this species may utilize approximately 16 distinct sleeping places within their home array, which may extend up to 0.25 square kilometers on any region. When it’s close to sunset, their night-time routine starts and, during the night, the majority of slow lorises will prefer spending this time alone.

    Slow loris is found typically in south-eastern Asia, throughout India, Philippines and covers areas of Indonesia too. They can inhabit altitudes that reach 1300 meters. This species can live in several types of vegetations, more precisely from bamboo to suburban gardens. They are spread through deciduous forests and tropical rainforests, but they usually inhabit the edges of these regions to find available sources of food. Slow lorises are mainly distributed in secondary growth woods, but they can also be spotted in primary ones. In the tropical regions that they live, they go through rainfall from 100 to 660 cm each year with humidity approximately of 80%.

    When it’s nighttime, slow lorises will carefully climb on tree branches to search for food. Due to their habitats, they can find a lot of available fruits, plant matter and insects like ants, and termites. Furthermore, they consume plants that give nectar, the gum (a high glucose solution from trees), and they eat bird eggs also. Their type of diet establishes them as primary and secondary consumers. Most slow lorises eat sap approximately 35%, plants with nectar about 31.7%, and fruits roughly 22.5%.
However, slow loris possesses the slowest metabolism amongst all the other Nycticebus species. There have been made studies in order to figure out the reason for their slow metabolism, but the result stated that it isn’t induced by a low energy diet. As a matter of fact, this species consumes high-energy food, and birds, which have extremely fast metabolisms, mostly eating this identical type of diet. It is reckoned that the true explanation for their slow metabolism is due to toxic insects that suppress the slow loris’ digestive system.

    Nyctcebus coucang are polygamous species and reproduce during the year. When a gestation of 6 months, more or less, ends, a female will have only one, or occasionally two, well-developed baby slow lorises.
    A newborn slow loris has its eyes open and, from the moment of birth, it has enough strength and is able to cling onto tree branches. After birth, however, the baby loris will remain with its mother every single day for approximately 7 weeks. The young slow loris sticks to the belly of the mother to whatever place she travels, excluding the time when she’s looking for food. Before the mother departs to search for food, she starts cleaning her baby. However, this isn’t an ordinary cleaning because the mother covers the baby’s fur with a mixture of venom and saliva in order to keep it safe from any predator that may come along.
The baby slow loris will breastfeed for approximately 6 months, but it is able to consume solid food as soon as roughly 4 weeks are over from their moment of birth. When they reach 2 weeks, newborn slow lorises grow and have the ability to creep through the tree branches, and they reach sexual maturity within 10 to 24 months.

    Slow loris faces two major threats, as in deforestation and the wildlife trade. They have lost a considerable portion of their natural environment, with habitat disintegration cloistering small populations and blocking biological dispersal. Even so, in spite of the lost habitat, their diminution is better related with unsustainable trade, be it as exotic pets or for medicine purposes. There are people, particularly from Cambodia, that think this slow loris has the power to cure many diseases, and in Indonesia, this animal is typically merchandise as a live pet. Because of its toxic bite, the slow loris gets its teeth pulled out, which most of the time leads to infection, dental abscesses and even death because it can’t consume anymore its favorite diet. Mainly, poachers target these species in an easy manner because slow lorises tend to grasp tightly onto their branches instead of getting away; they are dazed by bright daylight and they are also slow moving.
    Every slow loris species that had been recognized before the year 2012 are now classified as either vulnerable or endangered on the red list of IUCN, short abbreviation for the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Currently, all slow loris species are included on Appendix I of CITES, short for the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species, which defends slow lorises from international commercial trade.

Interesting facts
•    Lifespan of the slow lorises extends up to 20 years in the wild, and in captivity they can even surpass this age.
•    Slow loris is most closely related to the African bushbabies.
•    Although slow lorises are slow moving, they actually have the ability to travel approximately 8 kilometers in a single night!
•    The slow loris species possess the longest tongue amongst all the primates. They use it to extract and drink nectar.
•    In some regions of Asia, people think that slow loris can cure more than 100 diseases!
•    All slow loris species bear a light reflective layer in their eyes known by the name of tapetum lucidum, and only animals such as cats possess this!
•    It is believed that slow loris has the power to bring good fortune in the province of North Sumatra, more precisely by burying this animal beneath a house or a route. People from the same province use body parts of slow loris to put curses on their enemies.

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Published by Claudia Barbu


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