Allow me to introduce you to Plushy- my favorite Slow Loris that resides in the “Night World” Exhibit at the Moscow Zoo.
Though he resembles more a mini bear than a baboon, Plushy can proudly lay claim to belonging to the Primate family .(species of strepsirrhine primates which make up the genus Nycticebus)
Now you may ask “What’s the fun in coming to the zoo and watching a nocturnal animal sleep?” . Well the clever zoo keepers manipulate the light settings in the Nightworld enclosure to create nighttime during our day (thus allowing us to observe them without having to stay up at night with a gallon of coffee and a “Who cares about the animals, I just want to sleep” attitude).
Though they are known to move around slow (hence the very appropriate name) and silent (a very important survival tactic, as their slothful movements rustle less leaves , thus reducing the probability of detection by predators) do not be fooled their bite IS worse than their bark, literally.
Slow lorisis are unique as they have a toxic bite thanks to a scent gland on their upper arm that they lick to activate with saliva. The Loris uses it as a weapon against predators and apply it to their fur whilst grooming and also comes in handy as a “predator proof” system when executing “infant parking”- leaving their babies on branches while they hunt. (But fear not humans this bite is not deadly to us, but it can cause severe pain and an allergic reaction).
A few other interesting “superpowers” of the slow loris include:
- reflective layer on eye to improve night vision and monochrome vision (very
- They produce their own vitamin C (a trait we humans lack)
- Toothcomb grooming claw (hands on approach to ” fur do’s )
- They also can consume gluta bark , by metabolizing the toxins which are fatal to humans (iron stomach much?)
Something else worth definitely mentioning is the slow loris “death grip”:
Due to a very strong muscular build in their extremities, which allows them to have enough strength to hang of of branches for long periods of time, lorisis have a very powerful clutch . Anyone who has experience in working with slow lorises probably has experienced or at least is aware of the dangers of this trait, because once it has you in its clutch, it’s more impossible to shake off than one of grandma’s hugs. I speak from personal experience, as I once had the “pleasure” of having Plushy climb up on my head without permission (while I was in his enclosure raking bark ) .Let me tell you- I’m not exaggerating about the “death grip” – I didn’t know what to be more worried about- loosing half my hair or his toxic bite .But I kept my cool because the imperative thing in situations like these (as is with working with wild animals in general ) is to not panic and most importantly, NOT TO TRY TO REMOVE THE LORIS WITH YOUR HANDS – they will panic and bite. Instead ,as per the instructions of my superior , I walked up to the nearest branch and waited until he climbed off (thankfully it only took him one very long , for me, minute to do so)
But aside from that incident (which once again taught me how important it was to never get too comfortable in an animal’s enclosure, no matter how familiar) working,(or playing butler, which is more the case in zookeepin) with Plushy has brought a new appreciation for the lesser primates, and the realization of just how underrated they are.
Because they may be the slow loris, but their charm and adorably peculiar nature steals your heart pretty quickly.