Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Rarest Mammal known to Man...

The slow loris is an amazing creature - see Matt's profile of the Sunda slow loris in a previous post - and there are three species around South East Asia and all are classified as 'vulnerable' or 'endangered' by the IUCN as they face threats from loss of habitat and poaching for the illegal pet trade. Being that cute has its fair share of disadvantages. 

The Horton Plains slender loris.

Returning from beyond the grave - the Horton Plains Slow Loris, discovered in Sri Lanka in 1937, has thought to be extinct for the last sixty years. A chance encounter in 2002 encouraged surveys by the Zoological Society of London, who established that the entire population consists of a sad figure of less than a hundred individuals. 

This Slow Loris lives exclusively in the cloud forests of Horton Plains in Sri Lanka, and deforestation for firewood and agriculture has left individuals isolated in patchy forest, unable to 'date' as it were (unfortunate for a polygamous animal!). When a population is split up and isolated, individuals cannot find mates, and when reproduction rates drop, combined with a loss of habitat, it leaves that species in real trouble. This tiny mammal, at 20 cm and just 310 g is potentially the rarest mammal known to science.

Efforts are being made to protect and enhance the remaining forest areas in Horton Plains, and to try and reconnect the sporadic population. Fingers crossed for the little fellas. We hope that it's not too late.

- Sam

Wednesday, July 7, 2010