Slender Loris gasps for survival as urban India expands

BANGALORE, India, June 27, 2006 (AFP) – Hunted for centuries for its purported qualities as an aphrodisiac, asthma cure and as a kind of living voodoo doll, the tiny primate known as the Slender Loris has long faced a battle just to survive. But the biggest threat to the rare nocturnal animal, which has a distinctive a big head, wide brown eyes and is so small it can be held in your hand, is the recent encroachment of human activity on to patches of forest in southern India and Sri Lanka that the primate calls home.

Measuring six to 10 inches long and weighing about 350 grams (12 ounces), the Slender Loris is increasingly popping up urban India, where it has traditionally either been killed as an omen of bad luck or captured and traded.

“In south India people either trade in them or use them for black magic,” Sharat Babu, senior manager of People for Animals in Bangalore, told AFP.

“If a person wants to harm their enemy they will tell their black magic practitioner to use a Slender Loris and cause damage to that exact part of the primate’s body,” he said.

“Still, to me, the destruction of their habitats is the main reason why these Slender Loris turn up in cities,” he said.

Animal rights groups fear this latest trend sign