Animals develop or evolve to protect themselves against predators. Some have camouflaging skills, while others have hardened protective shells. Yet some animals develop other protective features like venom to poison those who cause them harm. But did you know there is a primate that is also poisonous?
The slow loris is the only venomous primate in the world. When threatened, they lick a gland near their elbow that when mixed with their saliva becomes toxic and can cause death to their aggressor.
What is a Slow Loris?
The slow loris is a tailless or short-tailed forest primate primarily found in south and southeast Asian regions. These primates are arboreal and nocturnal, often curled up sleeping during the day. They have soft gray or brown fur and huge eyes encircled by dark patches. They also have short index fingers.
Lorises are distant relatives of pottos and angwantibos of Africa. They move with great deliberation through trees which is their natural habitat. They are often seen hanging by their feet and using their hands to grab food or move from one branch to the other.
There are eleven known species of lorises, where nine of them are more robust and have shorter, stouter limbs. They also have more rounded snouts paired with smaller eyes and ears. These primates feed on insects, smaller animals, fruits, and other vegetation. (Source: Britannica)
How Does the Loris Defend Itself?
The Javan slow loris, which is found in small pockets of the Indonesian island of Java, is the only species of slow loris that is venomous. It is the only known venomous primate, thanks to its evolved specialized glands under its armpits.
When the Javan slow loris feels threatened, its specialized gland produces a substance that, when mixed with its saliva, becomes a toxic venom, allowing the loris to deliver a necrotic bite. The toxin causes flesh at the site of the bite to rot. These primates use this venom to defend their territories, food, or offspring and usually use the toxin against other lorises.
In 2012, George Madani, a wildlife biologist, got bitten on the finger by a slow loris surveying the wildlife in Malaysian Borneo. According to the biologist, it initially was excruciating, but the toxin developed into a full-blown anaphylactic reaction. Madani’s mouth swelled up, and his chest and abdomen hurt.
Luckily for him, the local clinic had adrenaline to alleviate his painful condition. He was the first reported case from a Kayan slow loris and the second medically evaluated case from the primate. However, locals attest that there were numerous unpublished accounts of people who attest to the potency of the slow loris’ venom. (Source: Britannica)
Can Slow Lorises Be Domesticated?
The slow loris is a small, docile animal often seen as cute. Many people have obtained one as a pet. However, there are some territories wherein it is illegal to own a slow loris. These primates are categorized as endangered species, and the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) bans the international trafficking of these animals.
However, certain regions allow an individual to own a slow loris as a pet, but the owner must obtain a license in doing so. However, slow lorises that are kept as pets are usually handled unethically. Sellers remove the lorises’ canines, which is done without proper medical care and expertise. (Source: Pet Ponder)