If you've ever seen photos or videos of slow lorises, you know how adorable they are. But as more and more tourists have come to this realization, the trend of selfies with the small primates has meant disaster for the slow loris population.
After a 2009 video of a slow loris being tickled went viral on YouTube, people started wanting to have their own interactions with the animals that are native to forests of east Asia. This has led to a booming industry in which the lorises are forcibly captured from their habitats, and later illegally sold on the street as pets or as props for tourists' photos.
Singer Rihanna unfortunately didn't help matters when she posed with a slow loris during a 2013 trip to Thailand.
And while slow lorises might seem like the perfect little pets, there are certain things that animal rights activists need people to know about them.
First of all, lorises have a venomous bite, which has led poachers to clip their teeth without anesthesia, leaving the lorises both scared and in pain.
Second, pet owners typically feed their lorises things like fruit and rice, which is way too caloric for the small animals who usually live on a diet of tree gum in the wild. This often leads to obesity.
Third, lorises are nocturnal, which means their large eyes are extremely sensitive to light. Being around artificial lights can cause big problems for the primates, including infection and disease.
Fourth, loris urine is highly toxic. So when they are forced to sit in it all day while locked in a cage or wearing a diaper, it can lead to gangrene.
And after a reported 80% decline in the loris population of Java over the past 24 years due to the illegal pet trade, activists are saying enough is enough.
"Efforts are needed to continue to raise awareness of the plight of slow lorises," an investigation earlier this year stated. "Without a change in attitude from the public, the use of slow lorises as photograph props is likely to continue and to spread."
As for that tickling video? It's actually torture for the slow loris.
According to a video by the Tickling is Torture project, the slow loris isn't raising its little arms because it loves being tickled. It's actually raising them because it's trying to gather venom from a gland in its elbow in an attempt to protect itself.
As word has spread, more and more people are speaking out in an attempt to stop the spread of the disturbing trend:
The petition by Tickling is Torture has already amassed over 700,000 signatures, and the video has been viewed over 2 million times.
So, the next time you want to share a cute video of a slow loris in captivity, just remember what kind of treatment you could be perpetuating.
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