The slow loris is one of the world's most adorable--and misunderstood--creatures, but as of this week, scientists know a little bit more about them.
In this week's American Journal of Primatology, two former subspecies of slow loris were upgraded to full species status, and a brand new species, the kayan loris, was introduced.
The team of researchers, led by Anna Nekaris of Oxford Brookes University and Rachel Munds from the University of Missouri, now name four species of slow loris--N. bancanus and N. borneanus, have been upgraded from subspecies, N. menagensis, and N. kayan--after studying the creatures in Borneo and the Philippines.
Munds explains the new classifications:
In the first study to quantify facial mask differences we have recognized three new species of slow loris, two of which were recognized as subspecies at some point in the past, but are now elevated to species status, and one previously unrecognized group. This finding will assist in conservation efforts for these enigmatic primates, although survey work in Borneo suggests the new species are either very difficult to locate or that their numbers may be quite small.
Little is known about slow lorises, which are native to the Indonesian island nation of Borneo, other than that they are very shy and likely very endangered.
Lorises are related to bushbabies and lemurs, and because of their sweet appearance, they are often a target of capture and illegal wildlife trade, sold at street markets to tourists in Indonesia.
Because the loris has a poisonous bite--it takes in toxin from glands on the inside of the the elbow when raising its arms to protect itself--poachers cut out its teeth so it can be sold at animal markets.
The pain and infection of the tooth removal kills many lorises, and those that survive are subjected to intense stress of the cramped cages and baking sun of the markets. Indonesian law prohibits their sale, but vendors and poachers show blatant disregard for the prohibitions.