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New species found is named world's only venomous primate

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 17th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A newly identified breed of slow loris on the Indonesian island of Borneo has the outsized, pleading eyes attendant with that breed. Photos depict the Nycticebus kayan as cute and cuddly, but don't underestimate him. The world's only venomous primate has a lethal bite that can cause fever, pain, swelling - and even death.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Writing in the American Journal of Primatology, Missouri researchers say the endangered lemur-like primate with two tongues is the only venomous primate in the world.

Due to a benign appearance, and its uses in traditional medicine, the slow loris is popular with poachers throughout southeastern Asia and its surrounding islands.

Three newly identified species were originally grouped with another species and with the slow loris has been divided into four distinct classes.

"Four separate species are harder to protect than one, since each species needs to maintain its population numbers and have sufficient forest habitat," lead author Rachel Munds from University of Missouri says.

"Unfortunately, in addition to habitat loss to deforestation, there is a booming black market demand for the animals. They are sold as pets, used as props for tourist photos or dismembered for use in traditional Asian medicines."

Keeping a wild animal - in particular one with a venomous bite is an extremely bad idea, experts warn.
 
Munds says slow lorises cannot be domesticated and that keeping them as pets is cruel. She wishes to remind others that the primates are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

"Zoos rarely succeed in breeding them," Munds says. "Nearly all the primates in the pet trade are taken from the wild, breaking the bonds of the lorises' complex and poorly understood social structures."

Even worse, those who breed them as pets often pull out their teeth, depriving the animal of its venomous bite. Many of these illegally captured primates die due to the foul conditions of pet markets.

"Once in the home, pet keepers don't provide the primates with the social, nutritional and habitat requirements they need to live comfortably," Munds says. "Pet keepers also want to play with the nocturnal animals during the day, disrupting their sleep patterns."

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