What do a fishing cat and a one-armed loris have in common?
As you can tell, we’re fans of animals with character here at CAT in WATER.
For those of you who don’t know — I sure didn’t until recently — the loris is not a Dr. Seuss character, but an adorable, worry-eyed primate of rotund stature found throughout Sri Lanka, India and Southeast Asia.
You might ask yourself, “OK, so besides the fact that these two species are found in geographically similar areas, what’s the connection?”
Two things, one thing sad and one thing wonderful. The wonderful is Namfon Cutter, the biologist heading up the fishing cat research in Thailand. Besides being the protector of fishing cats, she’s the guardian of a one-armed, rather talkative loris. (On a recent Skype call with Cutter, the loris contributed no shortage of running commentary in the form of clicks and coos in the background.)
Cutter’s loris, she told us, lost its arm when a cut became infected. Its mother had been killed for bushmeat, and the rescued baby has since been in Cutter’s care. This drama is where the second similarity comes into play. Lorises and fishing cats are often killed or caught for bushmeat and the exotic pet trade. In Cambodia, eating loris meat is thought to help treat leprosy and their tears are used in love potions, according to a 2010 Scientific American Article. Fishing cats on the other hand are considered a delicacy among locals, says Cutter. Both sometimes end up as pets to enthusiasts in Europe and elsewhere around the world.
It’s easy to see why. Take the wildly popular YouTube video, Tickling Slow Loris. I have seen few things as cute in my life. The video has garnered more than 6 million hits, but even as I enjoyed what I was seeing, I can’t help wonder what greater damage something like this is doing. Several commenters wanted to know where they could get one.
This stat from a 2007 Mongabay article wrote, puts it in a little bit of perspective:
ProFauna Indonesia estimated that 7,000 lorises were caught and traded between 2000 and 2007.
If you’re still with me, I want to bring you back to the wonderful, Cutter. This is a person so dedicated to these creatures that she’s working round the clock to protect and foster appreciation for the wildlife of Thailand. In a few years of tireless work, she is making gains with local communities, getting them to see the value (not as bushmeat or medicine or pets) of fishing cats.
Through outreach with local schools, the children of southeast Thailand are starting to see the cat not as a commodity or nuisance, but as something cool, and the parents are indulging that sensibility. There’s still a long way to go on that front, but that’s where CAT in WATER and Cutter’s work come in. Anything you can do to lend your support with these efforts will help the fishing cats. More on community outreach in a future post.
ARTICLES WORTH READING:
The loris: Another primate at risk from traditional Asian medicine, Scientific American
Cuddly primate trade banned, Mongabay.com