The Downside of Shareworthiness: The Plight of the Slow Loris

I had never heard of a slow loris. Hours of Sesame Street, two bachelor’s degrees and four plus decades on this earth and I couldn’t pick one of these small Southeast Asian primates out of a line-up.  Until my then eight year old daughter brought the species to my attention by showing me this video:

Four years ago, everyone considered it adorable when Dmitry Sergeyev of St. Petersburg, Russia uploaded this video of his pet pygmy slow loris. The big eyed critter was just so odd and so charming that even without seeding, it quickly went viral.

But despite the title, apparently slow lorises do NOT like getting tickled.  Experts claim they take this “hands up” posture when they feel threatened, exposing scent glands which can function, skunk-like, to deter predators. Moreover, being nocturnal carnivores, bright daylight essentially blinds them. But worst of all, the slow loris is a threatened animal.

Animal rights groups grew concerned when a study of the video’s YouTube comments revealed that, just behind the general cuteness of the animal, people mentioned wanting a slow loris as a pet. The numbers came out to about one in ten comments mentioning acquiring one, and so with each share and each additional post, the illegal pet trade pushed this species closer to extinction.

Which kind of changes how we view this video today. And the general tenor of the comments beneath these and similar postings of exotic baby animals. If your children like this viral, the better course of action would be to set them down in front of a Madagascar DVD and go pick up a pound puppy at the shelter.

Besides, even PetSmart doesn’t sell slow loris chow.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson