The Vulnerable Bengal Slow Loris

Found in some of the National Parks of Bangladesh, the Bengal slow loris (Nycticebus bengalensis) is a fascinating little primate with enormous brown eyes, a round flat head, small ears, and dense brown and beige fur. It generally weighs less than 2 kgs and measures between 26 and 38 cm from its vestigial tail to the top of its head. Its wide-eyed quizzical expression is very appealing and it is often targeted by poachers for the illegal exotic pet trade. Moreover, the belief that certain body parts of the Bengal slow loris have therapeutic benefits has led to the animal being hunted for traditional medicines, as well as for food. These factors, together with habitat loss and a slow reproduction cycle, have led to the IUCN listing the Bengal slow loris as ‘vulnerable’.

The Bengal slow loris lives in both deciduous and evergreen forests, preferring rainforests that have dense canopies. It is omnivorous, eating gum, bark and resins from trees, as well as leaves, fruit, insects and bird eggs, and as a disperser of seeds and a pollinator, it serves a useful purpose in a forest ecosystem. It is also on the menu for some predators such as pythons and hawk-eagles.

They live in small family groups and are territorial, marking their territories with urine and exuding a toxin from scent glands under their arms as a form of communication. They also communicate through a variety of high-pitched whistling sounds and clicks. As seasonal breeders, they only reproduce every 12 to 18 months, more often than not giving birth to a single offspring, which the mother will carry around for about three months. The life-span of the Bengal slow loris is around 20 years. With a vestigial tail that serves no real purpose, the Bengal slow loris uses its hands and feet, each with an opposable thumb, for climbing.

As it is arboreal (living in trees) and nocturnal (awake at night) the Bengal slow loris is not all that easy to spot when exploring the protected areas of Bangladesh, such as Kaptai National Park and Lawachara National Park, but is certainly worth looking out for.

Photo attribution: Helena Snyder – Wikimedia Commons