Conservationists in West Borneo made a grim discovery when they arrived to rescue some endangered slow lorises that were being kept at a seaside resort as a tourist attraction. After receiving reports that there were 17 lorises at the location, the team found only ten. Seven of the rare primates were alive but there were also three dead lorises in the enclosure and their bodies were desiccated and starting to decay.
A team from International Animal Rescue (IAR) had travelled from the IAR primate rehabilitation centre in Ketapang, along with three members of the forestry department (BKSDA) in Pontianak and staff members from the BKSDA in Singkawang and Paloh.
They arrived at the hamlet of Camar Bulan, Temajuk Village, District Paloh, Sambas District on 13 April, accompanied by a group of local villagers. The lorises were being kept in an open area of about 6×8 metres which contained just three trees and was surrounded by a fence about 50cm high. Spotlights powered by a generator lit up the trees at night so that the lorises could be easily seen by visitors at the seaside resort.
The team acted quickly, climbing the trees and catching the seven live lorises. They noted immediately that one of the animals was in a particularly bad state. From information obtained at the resort, it seems the owner bought the lorises from local villagers and paid Ind Rp 100,000 (US$ 7.62) per head for them. In light of the owner’s absence, one of the employees at the resort named Setiawan signed the paperwork authorising the surrender of the primates.
Once the documentation was completed the team set off immediately for Pontianak. During the long journey they bought citrus fruits to sustain the lorises. They arrived at the BKSDA offices at 11 pm and vet Uwi quickly checked the lorises’ condition.
The little primates were found to be dehydrated and stressed. In addition, they were underweight and one female in particular gave the team serious cause for concern. The team picked up two more lorises from the BKSDA office that had previously been rescued in Kubu Raya. All the lorises were found to have problems with their mouths and infections in their gums after having their teeth cut out. Nevertheless, they seemed to have fairly good appetites and ate bananas and crickets during the onward journey.
The female loris was suffering from severe dehydration, weakness, diarrhoea, arrhythmic heart sounds and hypothermia. The vets wrapped her in warm compresses to raise her body temperature and gave her fluids intravenously to rehydrate her. She continued to feed on the bananas and crickets which was an encouraging sign.
The rescue team arrived back at IAR’s centre at 0700am on 15 April. The vets immediately administered emergency treatment to the sick loris whose condition by this time was deteriorating rapidly. An attempt was made to take blood samples from her but severe dehydration made it impossible. She was given antibiotics, more fluids and warm compresses and a stool examination was carried out which showed that she was infested with worms. The loris was immediately given worm medication and her condition began to improve. However sadly during 16 April she suffered a further decline and died in the early afternoon.
Alan Knight OBE, Chief Executive of International Animal Rescue, said: “The environment these lorises were being kept in failed to meet their most basic needs. Slow lorises are shy nocturnal primates. They spend their days sleeping, hidden away deep in the forest, and emerge in the cool darkness of the night to hunt for food. These captive lorises were victims of shocking cruelty and neglect. They were kept under blinding lights to make them visible to tourists and had insufficient space and vegetation to move around and find food. Their teeth had been cut which will have affected their ability to catch and eat insects and their infected mouths must have been causing them considerable pain. No wonder they were all underweight and dehydrated. Had our team not rescued them, I have no doubt that more of them would have died before too much longer.
“The fact that the bodies of the three dead lorises were left to decay in the enclosure indicates a total lack of concern for the animals’ welfare. I am relieved that we were able to remove the seven survivors but saddened that we weren’t in time to save them all.”
International Animal Rescue is urging holiday-makers who encounter captive wild animals kept as tourist attractions not to pay money to see or have their photos taken with them.
“We would urge anyone who comes across wild animals in situations like these lorises to express their concerns about them to those responsible and also to contact a local animal welfare group so that action can be taken to help them,” Knight said.